Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home for Christ and His Kingdom and Hope

On Friday night, I became an alumna of Summit Semester, the class of 2009. It doesn't seem right. It seems like we should just be starting. But, no, we spent three amazing months together, and now it is time to go home, "for Christ and His Kingdom," as Eric charged us.

So I'm home, after a 14 hour drive all day Saturday. It was so weird to be home. I stayed up for like three more hours, reading the Semester blogs, bios, and notes, looking at pictures, remembering...

We went to church this morning, which was really good. It was good to see friends again. And I really needed the sermon, on hope, today being the first Sunday of Advent.

I'm not gonna lie, I don't feel like being hopeful right now. My heart is still looking back, longing for my new family and the home we had at Snow Wolf Lodge. I'd honestly rather wallow in the "400 silent years" for at least a few more days, musing and contemplating and grieving, in a sense, rather than jump back in wholeheartedly into life.

Yet I'm called to more than this.

To quote my new favorite article ("Telling the World Its Own Story," Richard John Neuhaus):

All of us who have contended to be Christian disciples, to be faithful, know times in which we are tempted to despair and to feel that we are a part not only of a minority enterprise but a failing and perhaps definitively failed enterprise. But we have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin. And finally we have not the reason to despair, quite simply because Christ has risen.

As Dr. Dunagin reminded us this morning, God broke the the silence of 400 years with the command: "Fear not!" Of all of Jesus' commands, almost 20% of these were spent telling us not to fear.

His main points: Fear robs us of joy and hope. It causes us to doubt God's goodness, and fear produces "spiritual amnesia." Fear drains us of generosity; it causes us to seek safety first, which drains us of love. On the other hand, joy is deep and firm and abiding. Joy flourishes in the midst of pain and struggle.

Currently, I am wrestling more with fear and despair than I am with hope and joy. I'm not sure how to best keep up the friendships I've made these past three months. I'm scared of finding/creating a community here at home like the one I've just come from and of developing deep friendships that sharpen like iron. I'm not sure what lies ahead, and I don't really like that.

Yet this is why hope and joy are so essential. They aren't abstract ideas that only work when life is good and the world is happy. Hope and joy sustain us when everything else is falling apart because hope and joy can't just be mustered up inside us when we feel down. They come as a result of tremendous sacrifice.

Neuhaus again:

Optimism is not a Christian virtue. Optimism is simply a matter of optics, of seeing what you want to see and opting not to see what you don't want to see.

We are hopeful, filled with hope, which is a very different thing. Hope is a virtue of having looked unblinkingly into all the reasons for despair, into all of the reasons that would seem to falsify hope, and to say, "Nonetheless Christ is Lord. Nonetheless this is the story of the world. Nonetheless this is a story to which I will surrender myself day by day." Not simply on one altar call, but as the entirety of one's life, in which every day is a laying of your life on the altar of the Lord Jesus Christ being offered up in perfect sacrifice to the Father.

And will we overcome? Will we prevail? We have overcome and have prevailed ultimately because He has overcome and He has prevailed. There are days in which you and I get discouraged. On those days I tell myself — I suppose almost every day I tell myself, sometimes several times a day — those marvelous lines from T. S. Eliot's "East Coker," where Eliot says, "For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. Some people read those lines as lines of resignation, kind of shrugging your shoulders and saying, "What can you do?" But I read them as lines of vibrant hope. The rest is not our business. The rest is God's business.

Thank God, we are not God. Thank God, God is God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The First Goodbye

Saturday, November 21, 2009
Day 77, Summit Semester

Tonight was our first goodbye. Of course, it wasn’t really – not in any sense. (I think the first goodbye to really hit was five weeks ago when Dr. Williams was here – he connected with us in a way that other visiting speakers just didn’t, and he was the first to prepare us for going home.) But in another sense, tonight was one of the most significant goodbyes we will have this Semester.

This Semester was very different from years past in many respects, but perhaps most of all because Bauman was not our scholar-in-residence, living here at Snow Wolf Lodge the whole semester but traveling back and forth every week from Hillsdale. He said today that he’s spent four and a half 40-hour workweeks just traveling this semester – yet he also feels this is the most significant work he does all year. And for this, his sacrifice and dedication, we are very grateful.

Yet it was weird tonight – our last class with Bauman. It was pretty anticlimactic – and I’m actually really grateful for that. I’m just not a fan of big blubbering drawn out goodbyes – though sometimes that’s necessary, and I’ve certainly experienced those (and will again… probably next week…). We just had class as normal – finished up the overview of the Reformation with the Anabaptists and the Council of Trent tonight, after the Calvinist/Arminian lecture this morning. (Quote of the day from Bauman: I’m a no-point Calvinist, which is not the same as a pointless Calvinist – a pointless Calvinist is redundant!) We asked a last few questions, he commented for a minute or two about how we’ve grown this semester, and we stood and applauded. That was our last class.

We hung around for a while afterwards. Bauman signed books, took pictures with us, and joked around. He’s been very gracious with his time the past two weeks, staying an hour or more after class to answer our questions. Getting to talk and just hear him explain things in a smaller group of four or five has been just amazing. I’m so grateful for him and this Semester.

And in many ways, I’m ready to be home. In many ways, I’m ready to be done here. (Not in all ways – a lot of me wishes we were coming back next semester…) Yet it is still so weird. Today was our last Saturday – talking at breakfast I realized that I wouldn’t be here this time next week. And I’m okay with that – but it’s going to be so very different.

One of the most surprising things to me is that looking forward to these goodbyes is much harder than graduating high school – even though I had been with some of my classmates for 14 years. I guess some of it is geography – even though we’re scattered, we’ll probably all be back in town for holidays and stuff for the next couple of years - as opposed to my friends now being scattered all over the US (and South Korea).

But I really wasn’t expecting to be impacted this deeply by this community. I came in with one idea of community – based largely on my friendships at CCA with the friends I’ve had for a decade – and I’m leaving with an entirely different understanding. As Dr. Williams said, this community is just about as close to being what the church is supposed to be as about anything. And there is a factor here I haven’t experienced before – of living life with 40 people day in and day out for three months – spending an hour and half at the dinner table together every day, sitting in the same classes, wrestling with the same questions, doing the same chores, having the same crazy fun on the volleyball court. And the depth of what we do – from class to conversations over lunch that carry over to dish crew that we pick up again after dinner – and the ridiculous amount of inside jokes we’re able to accumulate every second… it’s so unique. I want everyone I know to experience this because it is so amazing.

And yet I know that’s ridiculous, impossible. So the challenge in going home is A) keeping up with the friendships we’ve developed here, and perhaps more importantly, B) developing and cultivating a sense of community, of deep friendship at home. It’s this second part that I’m kind of worried about, honestly. In a sense I’ve gone from having friends I’ve had all my life at CCA, to really deep friendships here at Semester, to not having the same kind of community at all at home. I haven’t yet experienced life at home, with my old friends at college, and I don’t have any idea what that looks like. I know I’m called to do CP!, but it’s definitely not the social experience this has been. It’s going to be radically different going from having 40 people keeping me company and accountable 24/7 to be studying on my own for most of the day.

So I’m not quite sure what that is going to look like, and I have no idea about what my schedule will look like either. It’s crazy how much more I get done when I have a schedule and stick to it. Not having internet or phone here means there are a lot less distractions, but the test of what we’ve learned is not how much we accomplish here but how we take it home and apply it and implement it for the rest of our lives.

One of the best ideas we’ve talked about in going home is to make a list of all the things we’re looking forward to about going home, to remind ourselves that this isn’t the end of the world. (And seriously, we’re not that depressed at all – it’s just a very weird time…)

So here’s my partial list (I’m sure there’s more… and these are ordered as they jumped into my head – not a whole lot of significance)
• Being with family!
• Church! I’ve really missed it – definitely more grateful for it now…
• Seeing and getting to regularly communicate with old friends
• Getting to read all the books I already own and need to read
• Organizing my lifetime reading list
• Working with missions stuff at church
• Working with media stuff at church
• Hanging out/investing in the youth group
• Normal cell phone use (yes, this is this far down the list)
• Getting a new cell phone – possibly more excited about this – I’m not sure what I’ll do when I don’t have to climb a mountain to get coverage every-other day or so, haha…
• Limited internet use – I really have no desire to use it every day! (except maybe for blogging…we’ll see….)
• Processing through more of what we’ve talked about here – especially talking things out with people
• Working around the house and yard – I am excited about this – regular work crews grow on you, though I’m not sure you want me to put up barbed-wire fences – those are the most fun by far! (seriously….)
• Eventually talking with M&Ms and trying to figure out more of what I’m specifically called to – discussions here have raised a lot of really good questions I need to wrestle through

So yeah. That’s what’s running through my head. Hopefully it made some sense.

And I am looking forward to seeing y’all this week!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 71, Summit Semester

Two weeks from today, I will be back home. That's a really weird thought.

Things have been really busy. I didn't blog before now, so these won't be profound at all. Sorry, haha.


We're having a blast, despite the fact time is flying way too fast.

A couple of us stayed after class for over an hour, talking to Bauman about different things, and it was really good. And after that, we went mattress sliding again. (Yes, Mom, I was careful, and my leg is doing well.)

We've been discussing the Reformation and the events leading up to it and the major figures of it this week in Theology, and it's been good. Bauman is an amazing teacher.

We had a really interesting discussion on CS Lewis' views on worship and prayer yesterday morning. It was fascinating, but I think I've found an area where I definitely don't agree with him, on how a worship service should be run. Interesting stuff to think about though.

We've looked at Wordsworth and the Romantic poets in Brit Lit. I'm glad we're reading a lot of their works, but I think I appreciate the old school guys like Gray and Milton and Donne a lot more...

It seems impossible, but our time here seems to be getting better and better. I'm so grateful for the leadership and for my friends. It's absolutely amazing.

At the same time, I'm not dreading coming home, just so you know. It's definitely going to be different, and I don't really have any idea what I'm coming home to schedule wise (which is weird after 3 months of great rigidity - seriously, no sarcasm - you get used to the schedule and it's really helpful - a lot harder to waste time...).

I'm just really happy and really grateful for this opportunity. I couldn't imagine doing anything better these three months.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 65, Summit Semester

Today was seriously the most fun I've had in a long long time! The first year of Summit Semester, they were planning to have a Harvest Fall celebration, but it got tongue twisted, and has immortally become known as Farvest Hall celebration. It's pretty epic.

We started out the morning in five teams, out in the field. It turns out they don't really sell pumpkins after All Saint's Day (for some reason also associated with something called halloween or something? yeah, not sure...), so we couldn't have pumpkin carving. We did something way better - gourd carving and sculpture. My team came in 2nd place with a great representation of a wonderful political leader. (Pictures withheld so Summit doesn't lose tax exemption and I don't wind up in jail or something within the next seven years. But as Bauman cheerfully asserts: "It's not slander if it's true!")

We also had a shooting contest going on while we were carving. For my second time to shoot, I did decent, and it was fun. That's something I'd definitely like to learn how to do well when I get home...

After that, we had an amazing celebration of World Freedom Day. We had an original 6+ minutes political speech, followed by a reenactment of tearing down the Berlin Wall. It was amazing - and it would only happen at Nerd Camp!

After that, we had a bobbing for apples contest, which ended with some people getting soaked. It was another cool thing to add to my list of new fun experiences at Semester.

We then had lunch - pumpkin soup in bread bowls and caramel apples.

After lunch, we watched a movie, which was interesting. We then got ready for the costume party. People had crazy costumes and it was hilarious. Food, dancing, games, and pure fun. I love how this community can be so academic and deep, discussing intense things, and crazy silly and having a blast at the same time. It's amazing...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day 64, Summit Semester

In politics this week, we covered the Constitution – the Convention, the background of the different groups of Framers, the various economic and political ideologies, how the document itself was composed and defended. Definitely something we need to understand in this day and age.

In Brit Lit, we’ve been hitting the highlights of Milton’s Paradise Lost. There’s not nearly enough time to go through all 11,000 lines, but we got a great overview and feel for it over the past three days.

In Theology, we’ve been discussing the guys leading up the Reformation – Thomas More and Erasmus. Interesting to really understand the political, social, and theological background going on during that time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 61, Summit Semester

Bauman returned! We gave him a standing O as he entered class tonight. Williams and Moreland were great, but it’s so much fun to have Bauman back. In typical Bauman fashion, he trashed both Williams and Moreland, both good friends of his, implying if not outright stating we shouldn’t trust what we learned while he was gone. Seriously, where else in the world do you get the quality of profs we get in three months? It’s amazing!

Bauman told the story of a scientist who wanted to be an entomologist – someone who studies insects. His prof gave him a specimen to study – a fish. For his first week, his only assignment was to stare at the fish – learn and observe everything he could about it using only his eyes, hands, and pencil and paper. He thought he knew everything there was to know about the fish within the first hour, but as the prof kept coming back and asking him what else he learned, he realized he wasn’t really seeing the fish. So over the course of that week, thinking about it in the lab and at night, and being quizzed by the prof, he learned how to really see and observe.

Bauman’s point? Keep staring at the fish! “I won’t always be here to answer your questions – that’s not real learning anyway. Stare at the fish! Think about it, figure it out yourself! Learn. And keep staring at the fish from every possible angle.”

If there’s one thing we’re learning at Semester, it’s that learning is a lifetime process. Our questions can’t be answered in a Semester, we can only realize how deep the questions really go and how little we actually know – about ourselves, the world, God, knowledge. There is infinitely more to learn, and while we’ll never get to the point where we know it all, learning and thinking well should be a part of every day for the rest of our lives.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 59, Summit Semester

Today was a nice day of rest after a quick but fun art field trip to Santa Fe. I talked with Naomi for about an hour in the morning, which was really good. There are definitely some things I really need to think through and define, both for myself and others, about missions and mobilizing. I love being in a place where good questions challenge you to the core and force you to really know what you think. They help clarify and make you sort through what you really believe. It was really helpful.

We then went into town, where we spent most of the day. We had internet access for three days in a row, with our trip to Santa Fe, and I definitely ran out of things to do. Of course, there’s always something to do on FB, but I had to think about how to spend my last hour or two on the internet. So crazy. I really need to ration my time on the internet when I get home. It’s one of those things you think you can’t live without, then you discover you live so much more and accomplish a gazillion more things without it…

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Hmm, so even though we had extra time on the internet, I didn't write out blogs beforehand this week, so this will be a pathetic week for blogging. Check FB, though, cause there are pics and videos up. A picture's worth a thousand words, so that should satisfy, right?

Monday we had Bible class and small group, and on Tuesday we had two art classes, one in the morning with Charlie (we did skits again) and one in the evening with his wife on art history. She's a high school art teacher, and she ran through the major art movements of the past 160 ish years so we would be prepared for our art field trip to Sante Fe this weekend.

Wednesday through Friday we had Dr. JP Moreland, one of the most important Christian philosophers alive today. He's a great teacher, though I will say he's much more enjoyable in person than in books (don't get me wrong, I really like his books and need to read more of them). He was great, I just wish we had more time with him.

Yesterday, we drove down early to Sante Fe to look at various art galleries. We started with a postmodern gallery called Site Sante Fe, which was interesting. I learned I need to start coring concrete out of the floors and selling it for thousands and thousands of dollars.

We then hung out on Canyon Road for several hours. There are dozens upon dozens of galleries there, with all kinds of art. It was definitely interesting. We then came back to the hotel, hung out, had great Mexican food, talked about art, and then used the internet for hours on end. It was pretty amazing.

Happy All Saints Day!