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Beating Busyness (Part 2)

In Educators, Parents, Students on July 31, 2012 at 7:11 am

Prosser Clock

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Ephesians 5:15-17

All of us are called to be good stewards of the time God has given us, but when we get down to it, our struggle tends to be not as much a matter of time management as it is of priority management. This sounds simple enough, but our culture does us a disservice by pluralizing the word “priority,” confusing us as to what our “priorities” are. When we talk about our “priorities,” we’re talking about something that doesn’t make sense—the nature of priority is singular. We are only able to have one priority.

Below are some of my personal time-tested applications of this idea, my own "stop doing" list, and my suggested reading list to help you focus more on this idea of priority management. I've also recommend this helpful worksheet from my friend, Adam Holz, to serve as a simple "assignment" if you'd like to more closely evaluate how you think about to whom/what you're giving yourself.

Craig's Applications
These are different things I've tried over time – not all at once, but usually more than one or two at a time. Figure out what works for you and make your own list.

  1. Put together a time budget. Like money, do you even know where your time really goes?
  2. Schedule and plan a personal retreat. Even if it's for just half a day, get some time away and make a plan.
  3. Re-evaluate your commute and how you use it. Much time gets wasted in the car. Listen to audio books, review Scripture, pray, or try initiating actual meaningful conversation with your kids (you might be surprised what happens).
  4. Read (and don’t feel guilty). There's nothing like reading to make you slow down because you can't really multi-task in doing it.
  5. Make a “stop doing” list. Over time, tasks and responsibilities accumulate, and not always for the best reasons. What do you need to stop doing?
  6. Plan blocks of time for projects. The alternative here is to figure out how to make those 5-15 minute windows of time work.
  7. Delegate (but don’t abdicate) what you can. Maybe you need to ask/pay/beg someone for help. This is not a sign of weakness; nobody's omni-competent.
  8. Get to a point of being able to declare to yourself (and others) how much time you actually have. It's a thought experiment – try it.
  9. Be sure to match the reason to the season (and vice versa); that is, there is a time for everything (and this may not be it).
  10. Make the word “priorities” singular again (“priority”) in your mind and vernacular. It can make a big difference in your thinking.

Craig's "Stop Doing" List
While this list is philosophical, I periodically make practical "stop doing" lists each year to help me discern if something I've been doing needs me to be the one doing it.

  1. Stop whining about being so busy. No one wants to hear it, and it’s probably not that tremendously interesting to anyone but you.
  2. Stop believing that you can have it all. You can’t, so you’ll have to choose what you want to have instead.
  3. Stop ignoring the Fourth Commandment. True, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, but you’re not even close to violating that, so stop pretending.
  4. Stop feeling guilty about not being able to help everyone for every reason. Jesus is the Savior; you are not.
  5. Stop being so lazy. There’s very little on television or the Internet worth viewing, so why spend hours trying to find it?
  6. Stop refusing to delegate to others. They may want (or need) to help.
  7. Stop letting yourself get overburdened and overworked. Cars were made to be driven; you were not.
  8. Stop believing the lie that you are important because of all you do; rather, learn to believe you are important because of all Jesus did.
  9. Stop wearing a watch (at least not on your wrist). Make access to a timepiece just a little more complicated so you might stop reaching for it as much as you would otherwise.
  10. Stop letting busy people speak into your life. Why let them make you into who they are?

Suggested Reading List
I've read all or most of each of these books and found them most helpful in considering priority in life and how it does (or doesn't) direct everything else. Good stuff.

Why “Priorities” Are Not Always Helpful

In Calling, Family, Health, Thought on July 30, 2012 at 7:28 am
Prosser Clock
Earlier last week, Megan and I were sitting at the dinner table talking about our family's fall schedule. One of the things we try to do before each school year is formulate what we call our "default schedule" – that elusive weekly calendar which, if not otherwise interrupted by life, represents our ideal "normal" state of existence. Perhaps you do a similar thing…or perhaps not.

All of us are called to be good stewards of the time God has given us, but when we get down to it, our struggle tends to be not as much a matter of time management as it is of priority management. This sounds simple enough, but our culture does us a disservice by pluralizing the word “priority,” confusing us as to what our “priorities” are. When we talk about our “priorities,” we’re talking about something that doesn’t make sense—the nature of priority is singular. We are only able to have one priority.

Is it really true what the commercials say, that we can have it all? Unfortunately, no, we can't; we have to choose. Theologian J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “We are as close to God as we choose to be, not as we want to be." How to choose wisely? The first step may be as simple as taking the time to ask the question (I'm currently considering this in a 2-part series, "Beating Busyness," at Docendo Discimus if you'd like to read more).

Megan and I end up having the time/priority management discussion multiple times a year…a quarter…a month…a week. Probably like you, we've wrestled with what we do (or should do) for 15 years now, but we've hardly perfected the process – life is just so complicated and messy. Still, we know it's an important discussion to have, so we try to give each other grace (again) in the midst of it; thankfully, God does as well.

As you think about the coming fall and your family's schedule, let me encourage you to consider your family's priority (singular) and how that influences your weekly calendar. Cull through your agendas, your expectations, and your guilt-trips and figure out what's really driving what you and your family do. You might be surprised by who's in charge…or Who isn't.

(Clock photo courtesy of Matthew Prosser; used by permission.)

Beating Busyness (Part 1)

In Thought on July 27, 2012 at 11:48 am

Prosser Clock

I remember once having a conversation with my oldest daughter when she was very little and realizing that, from her simple perspective, everything in the past was “yesterday" and everything in the future was “tomorrow.” I recall smiling and thinking to myself how cute and naive her way of thinking was, but I've since come to realize that her mindset was more healthy and biblical than mine.

If I were to ask you what the most impacting invention of the past 800 years has been, what would you answer? Typical responses include the Internet, the printing press, coffee (though I think that goes back further than 800 years), etc. It's a fun question to think about, but author Lewis Mumford has the best answer: the clock.

In his book Technics and Civilization, Mumford writes of how the invention of the clock in the fourteenth century made us into time-keepers, then time-savers, and now time-servers. He points out that once the clock came along, eternity ceased to serve as the measure and focus of human events; instead, the timepiece did.

The late NYU professor, Neil Postman, in his book, Entertaining Ourselves to Death, goes on to finish Mumford’s observation:

"We have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded. The clock introduced a new form of conversation between man and God, in which God appears to have been the loser. Perhaps Moses should have included another commandment: Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time."

About 12 years ago, I stopped wearing a watch. Though I still had need on a daily basis to know what time it was, I gave up my timepiece for the simple reason that my preoccupation with it was turning me into a time legalist. Everything I did—brushing my teeth in the morning, meeting with someone for lunch, spending time with my kids—took on meaning by how much time I spent doing it.

This silly little habit got to the point where I began breaking up the day not in terms of morning, afternoon, and evening or even by blocks of hours or individual hours themselves, but by minutes and sometimes even seconds. (I could brush my teeth in twenty-two seconds—not good for my teeth, nor for me that I knew that.)

Time—not God—was the fixation of my life. And it showed. Sure, I was never late for appointments, but I wasn’t much fun in them either as they all seemed like unforgiving deadlines to me. Megan and the girls were glad when we got time together, but I was always thinking about the rest of my schedule and sometimes had trouble really enjoying those moments. None of this was healthy, and I finally recognized that I needed to take some steps to stop it.

Now I try to consciously decide to use time as the gift it is, rather than the curse I had made it to be. I try to focus more on three basic facts:

  1. God created, dictates, and will one day take time away; it's his domain (Genesis 1; Job 14:15; Psalm 75:2; Revelation 10:6)
  2. Time applies to all equally and universally; no one cheats time, though some handle it better than others (Ecclesiastes 3:1; Hebrews 9:27-28)
  3. Time has nothing to do with my significance as a child of God; still, God wants me to be faithful with it as his child (Ephesians 5:15-17; Colossians 4:5)

Here are three myths about time that I have to work to avoid believing:

  1. It is up to me to create, dictate, and hold onto time (impossible anyway)
  2. Others have more of time than I do (they don't)
  3. The less time I have/appear to have, the more important I am (busyness does NOT equal value)

The Puritans had a concept of redeeming time rather than spending time. This idea helps us think about how we use our time. We need to learn now to redeem the time we’ve been given instead of just spend it. Spending time is particularly tragic because, unlike money, we can’t reclaim it. In fact, wasting time quite literally means we are wasting our lives – a scary proposition no matter how you think about it!

In my next post, I'll give you my top ten application ideas, my personal "stop doing" list, and a suggested reading list with books you can read (in all your free time, of course) on beating busyness.

(Photo of clock courtesy of Matthew Prosser; used by permission.)

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (5)

In Books, Pedagogy on July 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter five, "Practicing (for) the Kingdom":

"If we read the practices of Christian worship, we would conclude that Christians are a people whose year doesn't simply map onto the calendar of the dominant culture…The church is not a people gathered by abstract ideas or teachings or ideasl; it is a people gathered to the historical person Jesus Christ." (p. 156-157)

"As a messianic people, the church is a people who inhabit the present with a ceretain lightness of being…Resisting a presentism that can only imagine 'living for the moment,' the church is a people with a deeply ingrained orientation to the future, a habit we learn from Israel…We go through the ritual of desiring the kingdom – a kind of holy impatience – by reenacting Israel's longing for the coming of the King…We are a futural people who will not seek to escape the present, but will always sit somewhat uneasy in the present, haunted by the brokenness of the 'now.'" (p. 156-158)

"At the same time, the rhytms of Christian worship and the liturgical year stretch us backward. They are practices of remembering – another habit we learn from Israel…We are constituted as a people who live between times, remembering and hoping at the same time. Each week this between-ness is performed in the Eucharist, which both invites us to 'Do this in rememberance of me' and by doing so to 'proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.'" (p. 158)

"The thrilling drug of novelty is drunk deeply by such presentism; but it is a narcotic with diminishing returns. At stake here is a forgetting of 'higher times' and the stretching of liturgical time…Strangely, it fails to be expectant about the future. It is an orientation to what's coming that lacks hope; instead, it simply records the onslaught of events." (p. 159)

"To be human is to be called. But called to what? Gathered for what? The congregation gathers in response to a call to worship, which is the fundamental vocation of being human…The very reason that we are gathered for worship under the cross is because of humanity's fundamental failure to carry out the task and mission of being the image of God. The imago Dei is not a thing or property that was lost (or retained); it was a calling and a vocation that Adam and Eve failed to carry out…Jesus takes up and completes the vocation of Israel, whose vocation was a recommissioning for the creational task of being God's image bearers. Thus Jesus is our exemplar of what it looks like to fulfill the cultural mandate." (p. 162)

"We fulfill the mission of being God's image bearers by undertaking the work of culture making." (p. 165)

"Worship is best understood on the order of action, not reflection; worship is something that we do…The practices of Christian worship do this work nonetheless because of the kind of creature we are…In the action of gathering, there is a visceral training of our imagination that shapes how we subsequently think about our identity and our calling as human, in relation to God and in relation to others." (p.166)

"Because we are so fundamentally creatures, being aimed at the Creator, so to speak, is a necessary condition for being fully or properly human." (p. 169)

"Authentic worship, like toddler talk, expresses who we are and forms what we are becoming." (p. 172)

"Implicit in Christian worship is a vision not just for spiritual flourishing but also for human flourishing; this is not just practice for eternal bliss; it is training or temporal, embodied human community." (p. 174)

"God's law is not a stern restriction of our will but an invitation to find peace and rest in what Augustine would call the 'right order' of our will. In this respect, the giving of commandments is an expression of love; the commandments are given as guardrails that encourage us to act in ways that are consistent with the 'grain of the universe,' so to speak." (p. 174-175)

"The conception of autonomous freedom as freedom of choice – freedom to construct our own ends and to invent our own visions of the good life – chafes against the very notion of a law outside of ourselves…Human and all of creation flourish when they are rightly ordered to a telos that is not of their own choosing but rather is stipulated by God…It is an invitation to find the good life by welcoming the boundaries of law that guide us into the grooves that constitute the grain of the universe and are conducive to flourishing." (p. 175-176)

"Just as the Fall means not that we stop desiring but rather that our desire becomes disordered, so too sin does not mean that we stop being culture makers; rather, it means that we do this poorly, sinfully, unjustly." (p. 178)

"Image-bearing is a social reality: we are not deputized as little isolated images; rather, we bear the image in our collaborative cultural labors." (p. 184)

"Unfortunately, in the Reformed tradition, because we are rightly concerned not to accede to the modern gnosticism that would denigrate the goodness of creation, we can also be prone to blur Scripture's marked distintion between the world and the new creation (of which the church is a part). We even get a little embarrassed about the New Testament's stark claims about the people of God. In short, in the name of defending the goodness of creation, we paper over the distinction between structure and direction; thus our affirmation of creation slides into an affirmation of the world, which then slides toward an affirmation of 'the world' even in its distorted, misdirected configurations. In the name of the goodness of creation, we bend over backward to affirm common grace and are embarrassed by the language of antithesis, which feels dualistic and otherworldly. In short, we forget the reunciations that attend our baptism." (p. 190)

"In contrast to secular liturgies that are fixated on the novel and the new (including the liturgies of the university), which are trying their best to get us to forget what happened five minutes ago, Christian worship constitutes us as a people of memory." (p. 191)

"The good news announced in the Great Commission is that God has made it possible for us to actually participate in the cultural mandate. We are sent into the world to make disciples, which means we're being sent into the world to invite them to find their identity and vocation in Christ, the second Adam, the model of the new human." (p. 206)

"When Christians engage in the practices of hospitality and Sabbath keeping singing and forgiveness, simplicity and fasting, they are engaging in a way of life that is formative and constitutive of Christian discipleship." (p. 212)

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (4)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on July 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter four, "From Worship to Worldview":

"It might be more helpful to talk about a Christian social imaginary than to focus on a Christian worldview, given that the latter seems tinged with a lingering cognitivism. By focusing on social imaginaries, the radar of cultural critique is calibrated to focus on exegeting practices, not just waiting for the blips of ideas to show up on the screen." (p. 133)

"What if we sought to discern not the essence of Christianity as a system of beliefs (or summarized in a worldview) but instead sought to discern the shape of Christian faith as a form of life?…This will require undoing some habits we've acquired in theology and philosoophy, as well as in discussions of Christian education and the formation of Christian worldview. In particular, it requires that we reconsider the relationship between practice and belief." (p. 134)

"Emphasizing the primary of worship practices to worldview formation both honors the fact that all humans are desiring animals while at the same time making sense of how Christian worship is developmentally significant for those who can participate in rituals but are unable to participate in theoretical reflection." (p. 138)

"Before Christians had systematic theologies and worldviews, they were singing hymns and psalms, saying prayers, celebrating the Eucharist, sharing their property, and becoming a people marked by a desire for God's coming kingdom – a desire that constituted them as a peculiar people in the present." (p. 139)

"If one temptation is to level the sacraments in the name of the sacramentality of the world, a second is the temptation to naturalize the liturgy as just an embodied practice like any other (another kind of leveling)…While worship is entirely embodied, it is not only material; and though worship is wholly natural, it is never only natural." (p. 149)

"Worship is not for me – it's not primarily meant to be an experience that 'meets my felt needs,' nor should we merely reduce it to a pedagogy of desire (which would be just a more sophisitcated pro me construal of worship); rather, worship is about and for God…We may have construed worship as a primarily didactic, cognitive affair and thus organized it around a message that fails to reach our embodied hearts, and thus fails to touch our desire." (p. 150)


Sounding the Trumpet of Communication

In Parents, Veritas, Web/Tech on July 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Trumpet

There's an important (and favorite) passage of Scripture that illustrates and reminds me of the value of communication in leadership. In Nehemiah 4:15-18, Nehemiah records:

"When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me."

As Head of School, I love the value Nehemiah places on communicating with those he is leading. He makes no apologies, nor justifies his actions; he just keeps the man who sounds the trumpet with him to communicate with those building the wall.

Besides basic email, we have multiple digital venues through which we try to communicate and interact with our Veritas community. None of these are meant to replace human interaction, but they are helpful in the interim between meetings. And, as long as we're careful that the technology serves us (and not the other way around), why not use these amazing tools for the Kingdom?

Information

Interaction

 

To be sure, it's a lot of work to keep up with all of these, and thankfully, I don't have to do so alone. But Nehemiah's example speaks as much as any biblical leader's as to the importance of communication in leading others, so I do need to make sure it happens.

Sure, we still put out some printed mailings here and there, and we've also created and put some quality physical pieces into people's hands about who we are and what we do. But everything is designed to direct folks to our digital communication tools as much as possible. This is where we can most consistently, quickly, and personally (to a degree) connect with folks as we – or they – have need to do so.

We're not perfect at it, and we certainly don't get everything right or always in the timeliest of manners (my personal inbox is currently a sad reminder of this reality), but Nehemiah's example continues to challenge me as we build Veritas.

A Matter of Desire

In Calling, Friends, Humanity, Places on July 16, 2012 at 11:49 am

"Are you on staff here?" asked the man, sticking his head in the door of the Coachmen's Lounge in the Carriage House.

"No," I said. (Not "No, but I used to be," or "No, but I sometimes wish I were." Just "No.") "I'm sorry I can't help you."

"That's okay," he said nonchalantly. "You just can't answer my question. Thanks." He smiled and left in search of someone who could.

This interaction sums up the gist of what hurts the most about returning to places in my past that I love: I can't help and I can't answer. To a wannabe maven like myself, this is the death knell of the soul (or less melodramatically, part of the heartache I've felt on this trip).

I didn't realize it until we were on the road, but on this family vacation (the longest – two weeks – we've ever attempted and I've felt the guiltiest about), Megan and I are essentially re-tracing our geographic, emotional, and spiritual history together.

Starting in Oklahoma City (where we now live and move and have our being), we spent two days in St. Louis (Covenant Seminary, teaching at Westminster) before spending four days in Illinois (where I grew up and we lived for six weeks before transitioning to the Lou).

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Seven years later after starting seminary in the summer of 2005.
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The new entry way to Westminster Christian Academy.
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Cousins Ryan and Tucker filling water balloons with Maddie and Chloe.

Following our time on the farm, we headed out Colorado way, getting into Colorado Springs yesterday afternoon (where we met, started our family, and worked with The Navigators for 12 years at Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake, the two Nav properties threatened and very nearly consumed by the Waldo Canyon Fire a few weeks back). We've already seen a bear up close and personal, and the girls are attending Day Camp through the week before we begin the trip back to OKC Friday evening.

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A black bear taking a stroll in front of the Pink House.
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Eagle Lake Day Camp at Glen Eyrie.

As much as these places in my past have stayed the same, they have all changed as well. When we stopped off at Westminster in St. Louis to see where I would have taught had we stayed, it was very different ($70 million dollars buys quite a campus and facility).

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The Grand Hall at Westminster.

When we arrived at the farm, we barely made it in before the oil and chip crew finished my parents' driveway (something my dad repeatedly said he'd waited 39 years to do).

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Maddie, Millie, Tucker, and Chloe getting wet (notice the new driveway).

Here at the Glen, we had the place to ourselves on a Sunday evening, but it's a very different (and much improved) place from when I was here in the first half of the 2000's.

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Walking with Katie and Chloe through the Glen Eyrie grounds.

Being a recovering narcissist, I keep wondering how much of any of the change would or would not have happened had I stayed where I was? How would any of these or a thousand other decisions been made differently had I been around to be more involved in the discussions? And what does it mean for my ego that the decisions that did get made without me seem to have been, by and large, good and right ones?

It's a timely reminder, I suppose, that none of us are irreplaceable and that we should not think of ourselves as such. This does not mean that we are unimportant and unable to serve in God's grander narrative, but it's humbling to relearn again and again this lesson: though I want to matter, mattering is not what matters most (or even at all) in the economy of God. He is the only real Matterer.

I know and believe this, but my heart struggles with the feeling and truth of it. Forgive me, Lord, for allowing my desire to matter to be such a matter of my desire.

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (3)

In Thought on July 13, 2012 at 10:09 pm

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter three, "Lovers in a Dangerous Time":

"One of the most important aspects of this theology of culture is first a moment of recognition: recognizing cultural practices and rituals as lituries. We need to recognize that these practices are not neutral or benign, but rather intnetionally loaded to form us into certain kinds of people – to unwittingly make us disciples of rival kings and patriotic citizens of rival kingdoms." (p. 90)

"The point of apocalyptic literature is not prediction but unmasking – unveiling the realities around us for what they really are…What we need, then, is a kind of contemporary apocalyptic – a language and a genre that sees through the spin and unveils for us the religious and idolatrous character of the contemporary institutions that constitute our own milieu." (p. 92)

"The rituals associated with secular liturgies constitute a pedagogy, a training of our hearts and loves; because education is a mode of formation, the formation that results from immersion in secular liturgies is its own education of desire…These are not just neutral and benign 'things we do'; they are formative liturgies, pedagogies of desire that function as veritable educations of our imagination. Thus, as we've emphasized, education is not confined to the classroom, nor is worship confined to the church." (p. 94)

"One might say that marketing is the mall's evangelism; television commercials, billboards, Internet pop-ups, and magazine advertisements are the mall's outreach…The mall holds out consumption as redemption…To shop is to seek and to find." (pgs. 95, 99)

"Unfortunately, the Christian response to the liturgies of consumerism is often woefully inadequate, even a sort of parody of the mall. Rather than properly countering the liturgy of consumption, the church ends up mimicking it, merely substituting Christian commodities – 'Jesusfied' versions of worldly products, which are acquired, accumulated, and disposed of to make room for the new and the novel. This happens, I think, mainly because we fail to see the practices of consumption as liturgies." (p. 103)

"Nationalistic and patriotic rituals are intended to make us into certain kinds of people – good, loyal, productive citizens who, when called upon, are willing to make 'the ultimate sacrifice' for the good of the nation…Over time, these rituals have a cumulative, albeit cover, effect on our imaginary. And together, these constitute liturgies of ultimate concern: the ideal of national unity and commitment to its ideals is willing to make room for additional loyalties, but it is not willing to entertain trumping loyalties." (pgs. 104, 106-107)

"Many Christians experience no tension between the gospel according to America and the gospel of Jesus Christ because, subtly and unwittingly, the liturgies of American nationalism have so significantly shaped our imagination that they have, in many ways, trumped other liturgies. Thus we now see and hear and read the gospel through the liturgical lenses of the 'American gospel.'" (p. 107)

"Given that we are liturgical animals who are deeply shaped by practices, I'm suggesting that a lot can happen when one just goes through the motions." (p. 109)

"Everyone, it's pointed out, starts from some ultimate commitments that shape what they consider to be 'rational.' So in this sense, the scholar and the university can't help but be religious; or, in other words, there is no such things as the secular…Thus the Cathedral of Learning represents the nature and limits of secularization at the univeristy: while on the one hand it seeks to shut out reference to the divine, it nonetheless lives off the borrowed capital of religious aspiration." (p. 112-113)

"There are two sets of questions that we can bring to the university: 1) What telos does it 'glorify'? What way of life or vision of the good life does it foster? What does the university want us to love? 2) What are the rituals and practices that constitute the secular liturgy of the university?" (p. 114)

"Taken together, all of these facets of the university build up a generally frenetic and frantic pace, rhythms of expenditure and exhaustion, with little room for sabbath. This, too, turns out to be excellent formative preparation for the 'real world' of corporate ladder climbing and white-collar overtime needed in order to secure the cottage, the boat, and the private education for the kids. In short, while the official story tells us that it's what we're learning in the classroom that will prepare us to be productive members of society, it is actually the rituals of the university outside the classroom that might constitute the most formative aspect of our education." (p. 117)

"Secular liturgies don't create our desire; they point it, aim it, direct it to certain ends…Christian witness to culture can affirm that even these secular liturgies, with their misdirected desires, are a witness to the desire for God; the misdirections are a sign of a perduring structure that we can build upon." (p. 122)

Learning from Our Mistakes

In Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Veritas on July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

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Six month ago, I spoke with a very disheartened returning Veritas mom about her family's fall semester experience. She confessed that both she and her husband felt disorganized and lacked clear routines for their homedays, that their kids were unable to focus for any length of time alone, and that they wished they had taken more seriously the orientation help at the beginning of the year.

As we processed together, it was obvious they felt like failures. But it was also obvious we could do better helping them do better.

School starts in five-and-a-half weeks. Between now and then, all parents new to Veritas will take part in our new 2-day WISE Parent Conferences (North: August 10-11; Central, August 17-18) designed to orient them in the ways and nuances of Veritas.

But this orientation is not just for new families. Returning parents are required to join us for at least the second day of each conference, and will be welcomed (and encouraged) to join us for the whole time as well.

We've given great consideration to parent and staff suggestions, expanded the allotted time to interact with each other about intricacies of the blended model, and are confident that the conferences will be worth your time. (We wouldn't ask you to be a part if we weren't.)

If you're a new parent, you already know you're going. However, if you're a returning parent, we need you to RSVP and let us know how much of the conference you plan to attend (at minimum, the Saturday that goes with your respective campus…or more). We've made the process simple and quick.

Returning families, don't make the mistake in thinking you've "got" this. Every year is different, and the more we can prepare each other for this reality, the better off we're all sure to be. Learn more about the WISE Conferences. See you in August!

On the Road Again

In Family, Friends, Places, Travel, Vacation on July 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

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Not sure if a roadtrip through these five states – the five in which we've easily spent the majority of our lives* – counts as a true and exotic "vacation," but it will have to do. We're looking forward to seeing some familiar roads, places, and faces these next two weeks.

(*We've never lived in Kansas, but when you've driven across it as many times as we have, it's felt like it.)

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (2)

In Thought on July 6, 2012 at 9:57 am

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Quotes from chapter two, "Love Takes Practice":

"In a culture whose civic religion prizes consumption as the height of human flourishing, marketing taps into our erotic religious nature and seeks to shape us in such a way that this passion and desire is directed to strange gods, alternative worship, and another kingdom. And it does so by triggering and tapping into our erotic core – the heart…The marketing industry is able to capture, form, and dircet our desires precisely because it has rightly discerned that we are embodied, desiring creatures whose being-in-the-world is governed by the imagination." (p. 76)

"What if we didn't see passion and desire as such as the problem, but rather sought to redirect it? What if we honored what the marketing industry has got right – that we are creatures of love and desire – and then responded in kind with counter-measures that focus on our passions, not primarily on our thoughts or beliefs?…The result would be what Inklings member Charles Williams called a 'romantic theology.'" (p. 77)

"The end of learning is love; the path of discipleship is romantic." (p. 79)

"Since research indicates that only about 5 percent of our daily activity is the product of conscious, intenetional actions that we 'choose,' one can see that there's a lot at stake in the formation of our automatic unconscious." (p. 81)

"No habit or practice is neutral…Certain kinds of habits and practices are aimed at certain ends (teloi), and other habits and practices are aimed at quite different ends – and at some important point, those different ends will be mutually exclusive; that is, it will come down to a matter of aiming at one or the other (cf. Matthew 6:24). All habits and practices are ultimately trying to make us into a certain kind of person. So one of the most important questions we need to ask is: Just what kind of person is this habit or practice trying to produce, and to what end is such a practice aimed?" (p. 83)

"Typical worldview-thinking is not primed to recognize something like this because it is too focused on the cognitive. If you think cultural critique is based on ideas or beliefs, and that cultural 'threats' come in the form of messages and 'values,' then you'll have a cultural radar that is only equipped to pick up on ideas and beliefs…If our cultural critique remains captivated by a cognitivist anthropology, then we'll fail to even see the role of practices." (pgs. 84-85)

"I want to distinguish liturgies as rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations…Liturgies are the most loaded forms of ritual practice because they are after nothing less than our hearts. They want to determine what we love ultimately….Liturgies are ritual practices that function as pedagogies of ultimate desire." (86-87)

Fourth of July Redux

In Holidays on July 3, 2012 at 8:46 am

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We're laying low this Fourth of July – no travel, no sales, no fireworks. (Actually, I'm working all day, with family friends coming over for a swimming party in the evening.)

Lest you wonder at my seeming lack of patriotism, I refer you to my post from July 2008: "It's Hard to Soar with Eagles When You're a Turkey". Five years later, still a turkey:

"I know, I know: not only am I a terrible father, I am also a terrible American. I should be shot and hung and forced to watch C-Span. I get that. But I'm a turkey; I'm not an eagle. I don't relish the whole let's-blow-up-millions-of-dollars-worth-of-fireworks-to-prove-ourselves-a-great-nation mentality. It's too flashy; it's too easy."

Happy birthday, America. Now let's live up to our aspirations, for crying out loud.