Because life is a series of edits

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Guest Post: Career vs. Vocation (Part 1)

In Educators on October 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Wedel, Todd

(The following is the first in a three-part series on the question of career versus vocation – a key distinction parents need to help their students wrestle with as they consider future education and life goals. This series is authored by Todd J. Wedel, Veritas Classical Academy Grammar School principal and Rhetoric School teacher.)

I have a friend who is in a relationship. He is in love; she is not. In one conversation, she used the somewhat overused expression that she was “focused on her career.” I have always detested that phrase, seeing it as simply another expression of self-focus, but in conversing with my friend, a distinction crystalized that I had not apprehended before.

The problem is not, as I had before believed, that one was committed to the career instead of something else, but that a person always had a career. The example always in my mind was that a husband should always put his family first, his career latter. I came to see, though, that the distinction is not between a focus on career and the pursuit of a career in another manner, but a much more radical division, a distinction between a career and a vocation.

I am not quibbling over vocabulary; the distinction is real and matters foundationally to what we desire and live for. It affects our motivations and goals and our relationships, especially in such a money- and position-driven time and place as modern America.

The distinction is stark and speaks to the heartward direction of our lives: we commit to a career; we submit to a vocation. The career becomes that end towards which all our endeavors and all our desires for whatever it is we are doing tend. The vocation is not its own end; all our endeavors and all our desires are for God; the vocation a means.

Nor must we misname “career” as “profession” and “vocation” as “job.” The division is not between the doctor and the hairdresser. Each may pursue his or her chosen path for career or vocation. To see the heart, though, all one must do is look to the means. A career-minded doctor will talk or think of getting through college and med school, not going through. In the latter, learning is a part of the process, valuable not just as a means to the end but as a part of the end; in the former, learning is a necessary evil.

I saw this once very clearly defined in a conversation with a friend who had gone through med school. We were discussing current medical costs, the health care system, and all the related issues. It came out in the conversation that a part of the reason my friend saw justification for healthcare workers to charge whatever they wanted and whatever they could was that they had to “endure” residency. The pain and suffering they experienced (and it is a rigorous and grueling time) had to be paid back by someone, here, the patients. Such a mindset reveals that the doctor who would claim to be working in service of his patients sees them, at least partially, as a means to gain back what he has lost. He “deserves” whatever he can demand because he has endured what they have not.

The same could be said of the hairdresser. While perhaps the training is less grueling, the attitude could be the same. Let me seek my “vocation” so that I may somehow earn what “I deserve.” Or, as is so often said, “I have paid my dues.” Such an attitude is a mind fixed upon exchange.  I exchange an endurance of toil and stress so that I may be owed a certain type of life, of acclaim, of direction and purpose and end.

Thus, practically, our commitment to a career means that we do, in fact, seek excellence, but our desire for excellence is for advancement. We see advancement as dependent upon us, upon our performance, and we strive for it to advance that which we do and what we desire to be. Or, even if we desire to but remain where we are, in some respect, we desire acclaim and acknowledgement of our excellence. Our excellence is but another means to the end of our career.

(To be continued)

What Home Day REALLY Looks Like

In Thought on October 25, 2011 at 9:02 am

We showed you what the home portion of our blended model classical education model looks like in our dreams.

Here's a glimpse into reality:

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This is our second grader, scrolling through all of her jingles and chants, still in her pajamas, and hanging out with our dog, Peaches.

She then used Peaches as her excuse not to sit up to do the writing portion I asked her to do because she would disturb the dog.

There you go: a bit of reality into our classical homeschool utopia.

Lessons from the Wilderness

In Nature, Places, Writers on October 24, 2011 at 12:04 am

Got an email today from an old acquaintance from back during my Christian camp and conference center days. Here's what he wrote:

Hey, maybe you could offer some advice on an article I've been asked to write for 3CA (Christian Camp and Conference Association). I'm writing on "best practices" of how those who work at Christian camps and conferences can grow and nourish their own faith. From your experience in Christian camping, would you do me a favor and answer a few quick questions?

How can they do it?

What might it look like (paint a word picture from your experience)?

Any particular Scripture that inspires you in this area?

Here's what I wrote back (complete with a pic from my old program director days – circa 2004 – and a trivia question: Can you name the Christian pseudo-celebrity in the picture?):

God Knows What Retreat

From what I remember about my time in the 3CA world, the biggest irony of camp and conference work is its potential personal hypocrisy: working ridiculous hours so others can get away from their ridiculous hours; never wanting to recognize one's own limits (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) while encouraging others to repent of their anger at theirs; downplaying one's need for the Church and Sabbath while trying to meet them for others.

Christian camp and conference workers – much like health care professionals or pastors – can be the worst patients. Go to a 3CA conference and check out the physical shape so many directors and staff are in. While harder to measure, the same reality is often true of their spiritual shape (or at least it was of mine): little discipline in Scripture reading and meditation, less dependence in prayer, rare trust or submission to elders of a local church, and minimal personal evangelism. When camp and conference workers lack resolution in their own lives in these or other areas – all while trying to solve the same problems in others' – they risk hypocrisy. This was the tension I felt and fought for years on a daily basis.

In terms of solutions, for me, "best practice" started with personal repentance before God and others that a self-made martyrdom and "Oh, Lord, beat me so I'll feel better" mentality was far from biblical, as it made ministry more about me than about God and those he might use me to help.

Practically speaking, regular reassessment of (or perhaps creation of) job descriptions, evaluations of schedules, and emphasis on personal and communal responsibility to ensure that all heed Christ's call to "Come with me by yourselves (plural) to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31) is foundational, but must be committed to and carried out at all levels of the organization to really be effective.

I can think of no better warning for camp and conference center staff than this quote from C.S. Lewis:

"Those like myself, whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there."

In my mind, this is and always will be the potential curse of the camp and conference center staff, but it takes courageous leaders to call it what it is and care for their staff (and themselves) in honest ways concerning it.

Felt good thinking through some of that – should probably do more before I forget some of those lessons (there's plenty of opportunity for personal application here and now).

Greek Festival, Second Grade Style

In Thought on October 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm

The second grade had their annual Greek Festival this past Tuesday. One of the beautiful things about being the "new" family is that so far I (Megan) haven't been tasked with many school responsibilities. Granted, when nobody else was available to be the 3rd grade homeroom parent, I volunteered, but so far it's been an easy gig.

I found out on Tuesday just how much work the Greek Festival actually was and all I did was stop by Sam's on my way for some kind of Greekish dessert and and show up willing to man the archery station during the "Olympic" games. Easy peasey. For me. It didn't take much time at all for me to figure out that many man-hours (or should I say mom-hours) went in to making the festival what it was and I was grateful for every single one of them. I was more grateful that they weren't my mom-hours. My time will come, I'm just glad it hasn't come yet.

The kids started off by giving a presentation in the chapel with all the Greek songs and chants they've learned so far this year:

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The togas were super easy to do. We just had to get a large white t-shirt, pop their names on in Greek letters (some used fabric markers, some iron-on transfer paper), and cut the sleeves off. A bit of twine took care of the rest – instant toga!

After the presentation we walked across to the gym area for the feast and Olympic games. The first unplanned game was actually, "Who can walk across the wind tunnel and not lose your wreath?"

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And the feast. The moms did a great job pulling this off. My contribution? You see those grapes in the front? Yep, that was me. And that store-bought plate of something I don't know the name of in the back that looks like it has jam inside? I bought those at Sam's too.

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And the drinks:

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Of course I took more pictures of my own child than the others. It's in my job description.

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Here are the kids on their way to the Olympic games:

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I brought M12 with me to help with the games. She was tasked with leading the hurdles.

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I also brought C11 with me. She's hard at work at the archery station.

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We actually did work hard most of the time, but there were a few pockets in which we didn't have any kids at our station. You are seeing one of those times.

Here's one of the chariot races:

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And the awards ceremony:

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Super fun event, super fun time. I'm totally digging the blended model school system. I love, love, love having my kids home part of the time and having them at school part of the time. The Greek Festival is just one of the perks of this system.

Thanks Veritas Moms and Teachers! You all rock!

Blended Model Education (in a Perfect World)

In Education, Family, Movies, Veritas, Young Ones on October 18, 2011 at 7:11 am

Our Veritas Online Home Day Film Festival launches today. Here’s the intro video Megan, the girls, and I put together this past weekend to officially kick it off. Enjoy.