Blind and Autistic Performer on America’s Got Talent Demonstrates That Every Person Is a Gift

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Twenty-two year old blind, autistic singer Kodi Lee is making history on America’s Got Talent with his powerful renditions of “A Song For You” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. He has blown away the audience and judges with his incredible voice and piano skills.

Kodi’s joy and enthusiasm are evident from the moment he walks on stage. By pouring himself into his music, Kodi deeply impacts everyone around him. His passion, talent, and authenticity can be felt in every performance. With his music, Kodi brings the audience and judges to tears.

Kodi has earned standing ovations from the judges and audience. He also won the golden buzzer from judge Gabriel Union during his first performance, propelling him forward to the Quarter Finals.

In an interview with ExtraTV, Kodi’s mom Tina said that Kodi began playing piano at the age of two. While he takes music and voice lessons to sharpen his skills, he has always been a natural musician. He gave his first performance at Disneyland when he was just six years old and has continued to play in over 350 events.

In his first America’s Got Talent performance, Tina shared how despite the challenges Kodi faces due to his blindness and autism, music has brought joy and purpose to him from an early age. She even credits music with “saving his life” as it has given him an outlet to express himself even while being blind and autistic.

Whether or not Kodi wins season fourteen of America’s Got Talent, he has already won the heart of every person who has heard him perform.

Sadly, incredible people just like Kodi who have special needs are under intense attack before they are even born. Many children are under increased threat of being aborted just because of their disabilities, with some abortion advocates arguing that abortion saves a disabled person from a life of misery.

Every life is sacred and deserving of love and care. Every person with a disability has unique gifts and talents to share, a special light that he or she brings into this world that no one else can. When we discriminate against unborn children with disabilities, we extinguish a light in the world, allowing darkness to win.

After his performance, judge Gabriel Union commented that, “We have to stop putting limits on our children.” The worst limit we can place on our children is not allowing them the opportunity to live in the first place.

Instead of harming those with disabilities, let’s foster and nurture them, just like Kodi’s family does for him. When we bring out the best in people who have disabilities, they inherently bring out the best in us.

Who are we to determine if someone else deserves the right to live? Every time we allow an abortion to happen, we squelch what could have been an incredibly talented person like Kodi Lee. We not only have blood on our hands, but our world has lost potential. The judges on America’s Got Talent praised Kodi for the impact he is making with his talent, but he would not be making that impact if he had been aborted.

When we kill an unborn child, whether he or she has special needs or not, we snuff out not only a life made in the image of God, but also the talents and gifts God bestows upon each person.

After crying through Kodi’s first performance, judge Julianne Hough remarked, “Everyone needs a voice and an expression.” She is 100% correct. Every person, both born and unborn, deserves a voice. Since they cannot speak for themselves, we must serve as the voice for the unborn. We must remind the world that every unborn person holds vast potential and their own special place in the world, no matter their physical or mental condition.

After his booming success in the Quarter Finals, judge Simon Cowell said to Kodi, “We are nothing without people like you. . . . you are genuinely one of the most extraordinary people and talents we’ve had the great fortune to have on any show we’ve ever made.”

Just as Simon remarked, our world is truly empty without incredible people like Kodi. Every person is needed in the world, and we must protect and nurture those with disabilities, both born and unborn.

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Tackling College Interview Questions

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Before I entered college, I interviewed for the honors college scholarship at my university. Praise God, I was awarded the scholarship (the fruits of which I am now enjoying as a student)! Researching the different kinds of questions asked during college interviews greatly helped me during my interview. While you will never find the exact list of questions you will be asked, getting a general idea of the kinds of questions is tremendously helpful and will enable you to brainstorm answers prior to the actual interview. While this is not the most thorough list of potential questions available on the internet, here are five trends I noticed in the questions asked and some tips on how to answer questions effectively.

1) Prepare for personal questions

We normally do not share our greatest weaknesses with someone we have only known for fifteen minutes. Interviews, however, are an exception. My interviewers asked me point-blank what the most difficult time in my life was. My goal with these kinds of questions was to show that I have experienced challenges and know how to overcome real struggles. When the interviewers asked about my hobbies and I mentioned ballet, they asked what challenges I was currently facing in ballet. The interviewer(s) want to see that you know how to handle difficult times in your life without crumbling. The interviewers do not want you to try to portray yourself as perfect. Treat honesty as an asset, and you will earn respect.

2) Be bold in listing your strengths

Just as you need to honestly display your weaknesses and challenges, you must fully display your biggest accomplishments. Show them why they should accept you! A college interview is unique in that you are telling absolute strangers about your best accomplishments. In a college interview, you must sell yourself. At the beginning, the interviewer encouraged me to not be shy and even encouraged me to “brag” about my accomplishments. If you have held any leadership positions during high school, make sure you have specific details. When I said that I taught public speech classes, my interviewers asked me how many students I had. They want to see that you have successfully handled responsibility.

3) Have a vision for your future at that college

Colleges are searching for students who will actively contribute to the institution. If you are truly committed to going there, then you need to have some ideas of what you want to contribute to the college. When asked, my list included 1) become more involved with writing for the university’s publications 2) potentially join speech club if available 3) help organize service projects. Be prepared with some questions to ask your interview about the college. Make sure these questions are ones that you could not find answers to online! You do not want to ask a question that will make you look like you did not do your research.

4) Have solid examples of people you admire

I was asked about the most influential person in my life and a historical figure I admired. From my research, I already was prepared for this kind of question. I spent weeks prior to the interview just brainstorming. You do not have to write out your answer. For me, brainstorming and imagining what I would say saved the day during the actual interview.

5) Random questions…..

At the end of my interview, I was asked, “If you were a fruit, what would you be?” Do not be frightened or taken off-guard by random, seemingly silly questions. This is the time to be creative! Do not take yourself too seriously for these kinds of questions.

Finally, don’t forget to relax and have fun! Whether or not your interview renders the desired results, it is a fantastic learning and growth opportunity. Prepare and brainstorm beforehand, then on interview day get in their and enjoy the adventure!

5 Keys to Conquering the College Interview

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When I applied for college, I joined the honors college at my university. I decided to interview for the honors college scholarship, which would be an extra $1,000 of financial support per school year. Praise God, I was awarded the scholarship! The interview process was an adventure and a growing experience. Now that my first year of college is over, I thought I would share some of the keys I learned about college interviews (the tips I would like to have known before interviewing). Here are several lessons I learned from my interview experience that can benefit you, whether you are interviewing for a job or for college.

1) Control your nerves

The morning before my interview, I was a big ball of nerves. I knew that in order to succeed, I had to gain control over my emotions. I spent the morning listening to sermons and soaking up scripture. Some verses that encouraged me were Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:9, and 2 Timothy 1:7. I had to remind myself that emotions are often liars. Even though my hands were shaking as I was putting on my makeup, I continued to stand on God’s truth about being courageous. And praise God, when I walked into that interview my mind was clear and my nerves had disappeared.

2) Dress to impress.

Would you be apprehensive if your doctor walked into the exam room wearing an old t-shirt and basketball shorts? Or would you be a little bit concerned if your pastor showed up on Sunday morning wearing grass stained jeans and a shirt with half the buttons missing? We can either develop or destroy trust with the clothes we wear. You want to show the interviewer that you are taking this opportunity seriously. In the limited amount of time you have to impress your interviewers, your clothing is one way you can leave a professional impression.

3) Relax, you are not facing a firing squad.

While the interviewers will ask tough questions, they are not brutal investigators who are cheering for your demise. I was interviewed by two kind ladies, one who was a graduate of the honors college herself, and the other, a mom and wife with two kids. They are not waiting to eat you alive; they just want to hear your honest answers. Instead of treating your interview like an interrogation, be open and eager as you respond.

4) College interviews may be longer than entry level job interviews.

A college interview may be the toughest you have to face during your high school and college years. Normally, interviews for entry level jobs are relatively short in comparison to a college interview. Three of my friends who work entry level jobs said that their interviewers were fifteen to twenty minutes long. My college scholarship interview was forty-five minutes. Even if nothing comes from your college interview, you will at least have gained valuable experience handling a longer interview, which will serve you well when you enter the job market.

5) Be calm and confident.

If I could change one thing about my interview, I would have talked slower. Pace yourself.  Shake hands when you start and when you leave. Remember, you are entering the adult world. You may still feel like an awkward teenager, but rather choose to exude the poise of a polished professional.

If you have the opportunity to interview at a college, I would encourage you to take it! Reflecting on my own interview experience, I realized that even though preparing for the interview felt daunting, the task was completely manageable and helped me develop essential skills for the business world. Regardless of the outcome of your interview, you will come away with valuable experience that will help you both in your continued preparation for college and in life.

Moving Forward After the Death of a Pet

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*Cuddles (on the left) and Wiggles (on the right) enjoying quality time together!

Wiggles, a two year old pug, invaded my life when I was four years old. She was my faithful companion. I would dress her in princess clothes, take her for rides in the wagon, and invite her into my bed at night. As I grew older, Wiggles was a sense of stability and peace to me. Even when life changed, Wiggles was there. She would wait eagerly for me to get home from activities. Her enthusiasm never wavered.

But time eventually catches up with all animals. Arthritis hit Wiggles hard, but she would still hobble around the house, following me everywhere. But her health grew increasingly worse, signified by a tumor that would not stop growing. I was in a government college course a few weeks before she died, and I still firmly remember her sitting on my feet as I was discussing homework with my mom. By the time we put Wiggles down, she was already experiencing heart failure.

It’s been about three years since Wiggles passed away. Just like me, many teenagers and young adults face the death of their childhood pet. The question is: how do we respond? Here are five truths I learned when Wiggles died.

1) Feelings of grief are valid.

The day my dad took Wiggles to the vet to have her put down, I did nothing except cry and eat Nutella. The feelings of grief are legitimate. After all, if you are anything like me, this pet has been a constant part of your life for many years. In fact, they are firmly ingrained as a part of your childhood, a part of you growing up. During camping trips, sickness, and cold nights, your pet was by your side. It is natural to grieve the death of your furry friend.

2) Do not allow fear of grief to prevent you from enjoying life.

Some people are so afraid of losing their pet that they refuse to even purchase a pet. Once I was looking at the beta fish at PetSmart alongside another woman. She explained that she could never get a dog or cat because the grief she would experience upon their death would be overwhelming. All she could cope with was the death of a beta fish, and even that was difficult to handle. While I understand her struggle, it is sad that her fear of grief prevented her from getting a furry creature. Even though love always carries risk, the potential pain is still worth all the joy we will experience with that special pet or person.

3)  Be grateful for the time you had.

Dr. Seuss, the great genius, is quoted as saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” After the death of a favorite pet, it is tempting to look back and think, “I wish they were still here.” However, we must realize that our pet held influence in our lives during the right time. I believe that God blesses us with the relationships and friendships we need, exactly when we need them. That pet was in your life at the right time, for the right amount of time.

4)  Hope of seeing your pet again in Heaven.

Theologically, there is no straight answer on whether or not are pets will be in Heaven. Allow me to speculate though….

In Heaven is for Real, Colton Burpo remembers seeing all different kinds of animals in Heaven.  In My Dream of Heaven, Rebecca Ruther Springer mentions meeting a beloved family dog in Heaven. There are no solid answers on whether or not our pets will be in Heaven, but we do know that Heaven will be beyond what we can ask or believe.

And based on God’s very nature, I believe that are beloved pets will be in Heaven. Why? Because God is a good father, one who comforts His children (John 14:27) and provides for them beyond their expectations. Most importantly, Romans 8:32 asks if God gave us Jesus, then what will He hold back? He has already given us His most treasured Son, so why would he hold back a small thing that brings us pleasure (such as our pets)?

5)  More furry friends are in your future

Thankfully, most of us will have more than one beloved animals walk into our lives. Two years before Wiggles’ death, my grandmother moved into a nursing home. I ended up inheriting her pug, Cuddles. Slowly but surely, Cuddles inched her way into our family. She followed Wiggles around everywhere, carefully copying her every move. Now, she follows me everywhere, just like Wiggles. While no pet can ever replace your first pet, do not block another animal. They will carve out their own special place in your life, one that is different than that of your first pet. Your first pet will always hold a special place in your heart, but always remember that more awesome animals await you in the future.

Every wonderful pet we own is a true privilege. While losing a pet can be difficult, we also must remind ourselves to be thankful for the time we had with them. Even though we cannot know with complete certainty, I believe that we will reunite with our beloved pets in Heaven. In this life, we should remember our past pets with gratefulness while reminding ourselves that more wonderful pets await us in the future.

Bold and Broken – Witty, Intriguing, and Powerful

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Although they are former professional baseball players and successful entrepreneurs, twin brothers David and Jason Benham are perhaps better known as valiant warriors, defending God’s truth in a culture of lies. Their latest book, Bold and Broken, is all about how Christians can connect Heaven to earth through living out God’s love for humanity. To be effective connectors, Christians must be both bold and broken in their everyday lives.

God’s power is still working through people.

While the Benham brothers are excellent Biblical teachers, Bold and Broken is mainly built on stories of how God has worked in their lives and the lives of those around them. This book contains a variety of stories, some crazy and entertaining, others insightful and sobering. All the stories show that ordinary people can experience God’s power in their lives in extraordinary ways when they surrender to Him.

Both extreme acts and mundane faithfulness can allow Heaven to touch earth. I was encouraged by the powerful reminder that our everyday life is our ministry ground. For example, The Benhams filled an entire chapter with stories of ministering to people on their many flights. The Benhams walk through how connecting Heaven to earth has played out in every stage of their lives – from their time in baseball, to their present time in business, family life, and culture wars.

This book also shows how God’s miraculous saving power is still in the world today, no matter how dark the culture may seem. The Benham brothers tell story after story of how God’s love broke down a hostile person and allowed them to receive Jesus. We should never discount anyone  – they may be just one step away from receiving Jesus!

Every weakness is an opportunity to overcome.

With their toughness and CrossFit sculpted bodies, the Benham brothers can appear invincible, almost like Christian superheroes. The greatest strength of this book, however, is that they are honest and vulnerable about their own struggles. They reveal their troubles and times of fear, but most importantly they share how they overcame and how God transformed the situation.

Often, people on the outside only see the victory and totally miss the process towards achieving that victory. The Benham brothers give the backstories to their victories, revealing God’s miracle-working power and the faith and persistence required on their part.

Incredibly entertaining, but horrible in the grammar department.

To make the book just a little bit more fun, the Benhams include chapters from several guest writers who enriched the message of the book through the diversity of their life experiences.

This book is witty. I experienced many laugh-out-loud moments as I was reading. The Benhams never fail to use hysterical analogies. Their lighthearted writing style is delightful.

Even though the writing style is casual, this book has an inexcusable number of grammatical errors (around thirty-two) many of which are typos.  I have contacted the publisher about this – Salem Books – but have not received a response. Hopefully, this book goes through a rewrite because the original editor was asleep on the job.

This book is an enjoyable read, with short chapters that are easy to smack through in a limited amount of time. It nurtured my faith and gave me hope that God’s love and power can work miracles in any situation. If you are seeking guidance and training (like I am) on how to reach people for Christ, this book is a fantastic resource!

A Tale of Two Girls

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Allow me to take you back in time for just a few minutes – when I was fifteen, I was overjoyed to be a dancer in my church’s annual Easter play. One of my favorite parts of the production was socializing with my fellow cast members. There were two other teenage girls in the cast, Hannah and Emily. Hannah was friendly and fun to be around. Emily was a professional ballet dancer and model. She was difficult to develop a genuine friendship with because of her tendency to be friendly at first, only to snub you later.

Emily was the definition of “hot”, and she ensured that everyone knew it. She made no effort to dress modestly. All the teenage boys were following their eyes, thus they followed Emily all weekend. Walking out of the women’s restroom one night, I was greeted by an anxious teenage boy asking, “Is Emily in the bathroom?” Hannah and I could have received the same male attention if we had lowered our standards. However, we were both striving to dress modestly.

The lack of attention from the guys did not particularly bother me, but Hannah was obviously envious. The lure of attention and popularity had Hannah convinced that she wanted to be like Emily. Hannah followed Emily everywhere, probably hoping that some of her popularity would rub off. She pined after the attention the guys showered on Emily.

In the long run, I do not know what happened to these two ladies. However, their tale did teach me three lessons about self-image and interacting with guys.

  • Hold High Standards

If you have to show off most of your body to get a guy’s attention, then his attention is not worth receiving! A man who is constantly chasing after what he sees is not worthy of your friendship or your heart. I have had the honor of being friends with several guys who are genuinely interested in me, not what they can get from me. Gentlemen still exist. Be patient and wait for the guy who is truly made of gold, both for friendships and romantic interests.

  • Give Yourself Grace

We are hyper critical of ourselves. Even when you feel like you are not enough, other people notice your value. Hannah was jealous of the attention Emily was receiving from the guys, but she missed out on the friendships she did not have to fight for. I noticed the gold in her, such as her character and her kindness, and I am sure other people recognized the same. Hannah was a lovely girl who had no need to try to emulate anyone else!

  • Being Single Does Not Decrease Your Value

A lack of male attention does not mean that you are less attractive, smart, or funny. Somehow we came to believe that not having a boyfriend makes you less of a person, which is a lie! You are not the lonely misfit searching for your other piece. You are a child of the One True King who has Jesus living inside of you. You are complete without a significant other.

Do not waste your time and energy attempting to be someone else. Your life is beautiful in its own way. If you are forced to fight for attention, then you are seeking from the wrong people. While it is important to honestly evaluate ourselves, never forget the grace and forgiveness God has bestowed on you. Your value is not determined by who you are or who bestows attention on you, but rather whose you are. You are a daughter of the One True King, a precious Jewel. Rather than seeking attention from others, find satisfaction in your everlasting identity as God’s child.

 

*While Hannah and Emily are 100% real people, “Hannah” and “Emily” are names I made up.

 

 

All Believers Need Each Other

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I think many people are scared away from church by the relational aspect. Let’s face it, churches can be messy places sometimes! Wherever there are people, there are problems. As my friend Grace says, “God’s word points to the gathering of the saints as being beautiful and part of His plan, but also messy and difficult at times.” Combining a bunch of broken people into one huge family and trying to help those people can be an adventure. Even though it can be messy at times, there are many reasons why believers desperately need to be in relationship with each other and to be joined together through a local church.

Everyone has a unique role to fill

As 1 Corinthians 12 reveals, every single member of the church has a different role. In this chapter, Paul describes the church as being a body. Verse 12 says “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” Paul says that each person is like a different body part that serves a unique function. While some body parts are more visible than others and consequently receive more credit, ALL the parts are critical to the functioning of the body. Verse 18 says “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” Each member is unique and beautiful on their own, but for them to function properly, they must be joined together. Just as the body needs individual parts, the individual parts need the body. A Christian who is not connected to a church is like a lone eyeball laying on the sidewalk – without the rest of the body, they are horribly out of place and will eventually wither up and die.

The Dangers of Being Alone

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 talks about the benefits of doing life with other people and the dangers of being alone. According to verse 10, if one person falls, their friend can lift them up and get them back on their feet. However, if someone is alone when then fall, they are in a horrible situation. Alone, we are weak and susceptible to attack. Together, we are strong and can stand against the enemy’s attacks. Verse 12 says “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Of course, it often goes against our nature to seek help from other people. Especially in our individualistic American culture, we are taught to be independent and handle problems on our own. However, the church is not individualistic, but collectivistic. In the church, we are designed to all work together and to do life with each other.

Restoration of the Broken

The church is like a hospital: as people come in with their hurts, the church provides healing and rehabilitation. Especially when people make mistakes, the church can be God’s hands and feet by showing grace, even in difficult situations. Through the church, we remember that there is always hope for every person. When the people in the church exhibit God’s love, they can bring God’s restoration to a hurting world. Even when someone falls away from the church, the seeds of the Gospel planted by the church remain, and those seeds can help bring that person back to their local body of believers. The members of the church can also help to bring people back by praying for them. The church has incredible reconciling power.

Learning to handle relational drama in the church builds character in each church member and makes the whole body stronger. Just as we must have grace in our relationships with family members and friends, we must have grace for the people in our churches. While relationships in the church can sometimes entail drama, most of the time these relationships are beautiful and beneficial. The Bible shows that all believers need to be in relationship with their local body of believers for each member to remain healthy and for the body of Christ to function properly.