Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Korean Translation

We received our copies of the Korean translation of The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness! It’s a beautiful book and an honor to see in print.

Any Korean readers out there making their way to this site (we’ve made a few Facebook friends already)? Please let us know what you think. Was it helpful to you? Do you have any questions? It would be great to hear from you.

Also, does anyone know how to purchase copies in the US?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hugging a Tiger: Saying Goodbye Well

Toward the end of Yan Martel's, Life of Pi, the main character Pi, who has just survived over 200 days on a lifeboat, feels his boat wash up on a sandy shore. As it does he watches his boat companion (a tiger he named Richard Parker) jump from the boat and run into the jungle. He reflects:

“I wept like a child. It was not because I was over come at having survived my ordeal, though I was alive. Nor was it the presence of my brothers and sisters [other humans], though that was very moving. I was weeping because Richard Parker had left me so unceremoniously. What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape…

…I’ll tell you, that’s one thing I hate about my nickname [Pi], the way that the numbers run on forever. It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day. I wish so much that I’d had one last look at him in the lifeboat, that I’d provoked him a little, so that I was on his mind. I wish I had said to him then- yes, I know, to a tiger, but still -I wish I had said, “Richard Parker, it’s over. We have survived. Can you believe it? I owe you more gratitude than I can express. I couldn’t have done it without you. I would like to say it formally: Richard Parker, thank you. Thank you for saving my life. And now go where you must.”

Many college students this time of year are looking toward finishing final exams and engaging life’s next season (a summer job, sophomore year, a new place to live, etc.). For many, this transition means that friendships will change. Leaving high school is the first time many students realize that friendships don’t always last forever. As Pi notes, proper goodbyes are important. College can be an ideal place for student to learn to say good bye and end well.

Here are five ideas for doing just that:

1. Plan. Planning ahead will help you find time to say goodbye to people on your list (a professor, your RD, friends, your RA, the sandwich man, etc.)

2. Write a letter. Letter writing still holds a certain charm and allows one to be intentional with words. Also, people save letters.

3. Pack Early. This gives you time to savor the last moments before you move out or your parents pick you up. The rushed life (and goodbye) rarely work well.

4. Host a goodbye coffee, meal, 80’s party, or “insert favorite event here” with your friend or group of friends. Do what you love for a last time.

5. Mark the friendship with a photo, gift, or favorite memory. It may feel tacky but you will like the choice later.

Most of all, just try to say goodbye as authentically as possible. That in itself is an outrageous idea. It may not go perfectly but learning to say goodbye is something you will have to do again. College is the ideal place to learn to do it well. And…it has to be easier than saying goodbye to a tiger. Hugs anyone?

--Kyle Heys

Kyle Heys is a R
esident Director at Calvin College and regular contributor to the blog Live and Learn.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jubilee 2010

Kent Mast, Ocean City Beach Project alum, has created a highlight video from Jubilee 2010. Catch a glimpse of Don Opitz at 00:55!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Falling in Love... One Book at a Time

In high school I read a novel to impress a girl. It worked, I think. We’ve been married for almost nine years. The novel was A Time to Kill by John Grisham. I was never much of a reader growing up, but then I was given a new motivation: a beautiful girl mentioned that A Time to Kill was one of her favorite books. What was I to do? Rent the movie? That’s not a bad idea, but I didn’t want to blow this one. So I began to read.

Here’s what happened: the girl and I began dating, yada, yada, and I fell in love with reading! From the last page of A Time To Kill my senior year of high school until now, I have been a reader. All I needed was a book that I liked, that kept my interest, that was meaningful. I didn’t know books like that existed! Or, just maybe, could it be that my new found love had more to do with, well, my new found love?

Recently Living Jubilee has featured posts concerning writing, craft, work, and learning. In one way or another, they have caused me to think more deeply about my habits of reading. It’s no secret; reading has taken a hit in our culture of late. Many studies have shown that fewer and fewer people are reading. Young people, especially, are reading less and less each year. I can’t guarantee a spouse for every reader, but I can offer a few thoughts on what I’ve learned about reading over the years:

Reading takes time, patience, and discipline
. Perhaps the biggest excuse for not reading is that people think they are not good readers. For many, reading is difficult, slow and tiring. It still is for me. But here’s what I’ve learned: the more I read the easier it becomes. Like anything that requires training to do well (think sports, art, writing), your reading ability gets better over time. You need to practice.

Reading requires sustained motivation
. Not to take this analogy too far, but after my honeymoon period of reading, I needed a new reason to continue. The words of Jesus came to mind: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind.” Reading is one way to love God with our minds. There are other ways to love God with the minds we’ve been given, for sure, but there is something about reading that stretches our thinking. Or better, it gives our brain (a muscle, you know) a work out! Reading can be an act of worship and love toward God. Is there a higher motivation?

Reading slows us down, draws us near to God and energizes our service toward others
. Recently I heard a challenging sermon about the importance of drawing near to God. The pastor explained that when we draw near to God in prayer and study, we are brought into the mission of God. We begin to see the world as God sees it and respond, through the power of the Spirit, in the way God responds to the needs of the world. Reading often does that for me. With a book in hand, alone at a desk or library or coffee shop, I’m forced to think more deeply about an aspect of God’s world. As I draw closer, I’m reminded of the role I have to play in His-story, as a conduit of God’s love. Watching movies, hearing lectures or engaging in deep conversations are helpful too, but there is something about reading a good book, or meditating on a Biblical verse that moves me toward action. Reading requires focus. When I’m focused, I’m more aware of the needs around me and more likely to respond.

As you know, our faith is based, to a large extent, on the written word. Discipleship requires reading. And reading, I believe, brings us closer to the word made flesh. It’s not easy or always fun, but it is rewarding. No, my wife was not my reward for reading! I can’t believe you thought that. Although, the reward does have a lot to do with love, that’s for sure.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Christian Roommates

I can still remember my first day of college, and how uneasy I was meeting the guy that I’d be sharing a tiny room with all year long. His name was Gary, and as it turned out, we were night and day—that is he was Mr. Nighttime and I was Mr. Goodmorning. By the end of the year Gary and I were the only two guys on our floor who were still living together. We weren’t great friends, but we managed.

John Updike tells a story (The Christian Roommates) about two Christian roommates that were night and day. Orson Ziegler was the pride of his home town in South Dakota. He came to Harvard with all the right credentials—great grades, high IQ, athletic physique, and leadership successes at school and in his church. And he was sure that he was going to be a doctor just like his Dad. Henry Palamountain was also very bright, bright enough to be accepted at Harvard. The similarities between these two young men really end right there.

Henry was inquisitive, mischievous, spiritually eclectic, and socially peculiar. You’ll have to read the story sometime, because the delight of Updike’s writing is in the details and descriptions. If there is a “lesson” in this story, and I’m not sure that Updike really wrote this story to teach a lesson, it is this: the perfectly planned life can isolate a student from genuine engagement and personal growth. Ziegler had already decided what kind of person he was going to be, and nothing that he encountered during his college years really challenged or changed him. He was as judgmental and certain and driven when he left college as he was when he arrived. He had many opportunities to explore and to discuss things with his strange roommate Henry and others, but he preferred to keep his distance from unusual ideas and unusual people.

Much of the learning that you will encounter during the college years won’t come in the classroom. It will take place as you discuss things with your roommate and friends, as you encounter other cultures and customs, as you invest in a service project or a church youth group, and as you show grace to unusual people. Learning isn’t confined to the classroom and it isn’t simply acquired through hard work. Learning is as wide as life, and at times it takes place as we play and serve and wonder.

--Donald Opitz

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Break Suggestions for Students

Over the past few weeks, I have been a regular contributor to an exciting new blog, Living Jubilee. As you may be aware, the Jubilee Conference takes place in Pittsburgh each year, seeking to give college students a vision for living out faith in all areas of life. The Living Jubilee blog has brought together a group of writers to help students think more intentionally about how to live out the Jubilee vision each day.

Living Jubilee author, Alissa Wilkinson, has recently offered college students some advice on how to make the most of Christmas break. Her thoughts are worth sharing with readers of this website as well. Alissa suggests the following seven ideas for students on break:

1. Relax, recreate, rejuvenate

2. Play with your food

3. Expand your mind

4. Be cinematical

5. Clean house

6. Serve

7. Seek your God

Read Alissa’s entire article here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Responsible Learning

In 1948, Alfred Hitchcock made a film called Rope. Based on a stage play the entire film is set in a small apartment, and the whole film is one continuous shot. But holding the well done technical aspects of the film together is an amazing story of an outrageous idea. In this story, two recent Ivy League graduates, Brandon and Phillip, decide to kill an acquaintance of theirs, David, who they see as an inferior person. They are attempting to test out the theories of their education. Believing that they are superior men, they have advanced “beyond good and evil,” and so they can kill and cannot be held responsible for the consequences, in fact they are doing society a favor.

Brandon and Phillip then invite over a few friends, the victim’s family, and their esteemed philosophy professor, Rupert Cadell for a dinner party. All the while David’s dead body is in a chest in the living room. The climax of the film comes when the professor returns because of the suspicion that something is wrong. He has noticed one of the killers acting strangely throughout the party. On his return he confronts his students. They defend themselves by repeating back the professor’s own Nietzschean philosophy. They say that they killed because they learned that if they really were superior to the victim than it is not morally wrong to kill him. The professor then has a critical moment of clarity and realizes that his theory has consequences- that his classroom extends beyond its four walls into real lives.

In the end, Professor Cadell tells his students that they have taught him a great lesson, that his ideas must be in line with his ethics, that ideas inform our everyday actions and decisions. He abandons his belief in superior and inferior people; he concludes that all human beings must be treated with dignity and equality and that everyone has worth.

We are not all that different from Professor Cadell. It is simpler to just separate out the ideas and theories that we discuss and argue about in the classroom, from our everyday routines of eating, sleeping, and hanging out with friends. And as Brandon and Phillip illustrate connecting ideas and actions can be dangerous, even criminal. The trouble is: How do we navigate the bridges and intersections of the ideas that we learn about and the way we live our lives?

What we need is a better story- a vision of what it means to be human in a world shaped by the knowledge of good and evil. We are not just minds in bodies. As whole creatures created by God we were meant to live lives of integrity, integrating our thoughts about how it should and can be with the way we live. Of course we have fallen, and now we live with the tension and struggle of working toward learning. We must be careful and responsible with our learning; it’s a fragile gift, not a license to kill.

--Greg Veltman

Greg Veltman is currently a PhD student, studying higher education and cultural studies at the University of Pittsburgh and a Film Critic for Comment Magazine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

90% and Failing

Recently I read two brief stories in which 90% was a very bad percentage. The first is a bible story from Luke 17:11-19. In this story Jesus entered a village and ran into 10 lepers. They kept their distance, but cried out to the Miracle-Man, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” And Jesus did. He sent them to show themselves to the priests, and on their way, they were cleansed. Only one came back. This one threw himself at Jesus feet and thanked him. Ninety percent didn’t come back. Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?” No answer is given so we can only guess—catching up with family, tipping a pint at the village pub, who knows. Only one really got it—that a fabulous gift was given and gratitude is the right response.

My friend suggested this book to me, The First Year Out by Tim Clydesdale. This book is about higher education, and particularly about students. Clydesdale summarizes hundreds of hours of discussions with high school seniors, and then he continues those conversations with students in their first year out. Most have gone on to a college of some sort. And here is one of the major insights that emerged from all of this research—90% of the students in his project were not ready for college. The issue wasn’t that they needed better skills (reading, writing, arithmetic). The problem is even more fundamental than that. They were entirely disengaged and uninterested in what college had to offer. Clydesdale describes these students as having an “identity lockbox,” as having sequestered their deepest beliefs and stifled their curiosity so that almost nothing of lasting significance was taking place. In other words, only one in ten really got it—that a fabulous opportunity was available and engagement is the right response.

-- Donald Opitz

Looking to be more engaged in college? The annual Jubilee Conference is just around the corner and today is the last day to register at the “early bird rate.” Register now!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Skipping Class

College classes weren’t quite what I thought they would be like. I’m not sure what fueled my imagination, but for some reason I pictured deep discussions, reading important books, drinking coffee with professors, and debating with classmates. Now, this could be found on my campus, to be sure, but it wasn’t the norm.

I can remember the first time I had to choose classes. I considered consulting my advisor, but he was hard of hearing and English was his second language. So, a group of friends met in the computer lab (laptops weren’t the norm yet either!) and we looked through the course selections. Here was the criterion: nothing before 10:00, nothing after 4:00, no major research papers, the more standardized tests the better, especially if they’d been “standardized” for over 10 years! One friend told me: “If you have Dr. so-and-so write ‘go Cubs!’ at the end of every test. He will give you an extra letter grade.” I tried it and I think it worked. Seriously.

But then something happened. A local youth pastor gave me a recorded lecture by Ravi Zacharias, speaking at Harvard. I sat in my car to listen to it and skipped class to finish it. I was fascinated not just by his main point, that the Truth claims of Christ had a place in the academy, but by his underlying message: ideas matter. Ravi was serious about learning and his passion was contagious.

I still consider that day sitting in the car listening to Ravi as a milestone in my life of faith. For the first time I realized that being faithful to Christ included caring about learning. It would eventually take more than a taped lecture to push me to greater faithfulness, but it was a start. Ironically, I learned it while skipping class.

Go Cubs!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Curious George

The little monkey was always getting into trouble. He’d follow his nose into something interesting and soon he’d be in deep. That’s all I remember from the yesteryear children’s books and cartoons. The very young are more curious than George. Their capacious minds are open, they sense that there is much to learn, and they follow their little noses into the unknown. My best students are childlike (George-like?) in the same way; they are open, humble and curious. I love it when I encounter curiosity in the classroom. This is, sadly but understandably, the exception and not the rule. Most of my students are not actively curious. Curiosity has been wrung out of them by the struggle to fit in, to move on, and to get out. To stand out, to pause, and to get into something interesting is seen as the formula for eggheaded oddity.

Students learn best when their curiosity is piqued, and when they discover somebody else who shares their fascination. As you reflect about your own calling to be a student, I hope that you will experience:
  • awe—for this is really the beginning of wonder
  • meaning—the quest to connect the little things of life to the big and awe-full thing
  • insight—the discovery of the big thing right in the little thing under investigation

Curiosity isn’t monkey business, and it isn’t simply a quirky quality. It is a fundamental attribute of the disciple that wants to honor the Lord with all her mind.