Dropping Out

It may take me another 2+ years to graduate from college.

I’ve been a bit frustrated for years now. Though doing things I enjoy, I feel like my life and passions have been on hold so I can do the responsible thing. I want to finish what I start, and I want to help people, and I want to do it right. I basically put college on hold for two years to co-lead FnC–I couldn’t take upper-level classes at the time because I didn’t have enough time for more intense study or research. Then I got a full time job so I could afford to get married and subsequently start a family. Throughout it all, I’ve tried to balance school with the goal of getting a degree, and all along the way my writing has been on the back burner. It was what I ultimately wanted to focus on, but these other necessities took precedence.

Now I’m trying to finish my degree so I can move on and do what I want. I thought I just had another semester and a half, another seven months, and then I’d be done. I’d have a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in Creative Writing at the end of Spring 2010.

I was a double major (RS and CW), but today I dropped my second major down to a minor so I could graduate sooner. At the same time, I really examined my degree audit. For years, I’ve scheduled classes based on the general education and major/minor requirements, making sure I met each one. I took every night class I could that met those requirements because my work really doesn’t like me taking day classes. Since there are no night classes left to take, I began my last four courses before completing my degree, taking them during the day.

But it looks like I don’t just need four more courses. There’s a subsection on my degree audit I missed that states “40 hours upper-division credits required.” I have eighteen, with three more currently in progress. I need nineteen more.

I’ll get six next semester with my last 500-levels. That leaves me still needing thirteen. At six hours a semester, that’s three semesters. Conversely, I could try to take nine hours during one semester (on top of 40 hours of work), but most 300-levels that would satisfy this requirement aren’t offered at night at Missouri State and I don’t think my work would be quite that flexible.

What’s worse, I have no classes left to take that actually matter. They would have to be absolutely random, unrelated 300-level classes.

The thought of being in school for another two years is devastating, primarily because I just don’t think I can do it. I have been in school for so long, and I’ve been wanting to finish something for so long, that the thought of not finishing is heartbreaking. And yet, I can’t see myself putting my true desires on hold for another two years just to get a piece of paper that doesn’t matter.

I have three desires in my life.

  1. Be a father.
  2. Write.
  3. Serve God (which I think will involve learning about and teaching spiritual warfare).

Number 1 is waiting until April’s education is complete and we pay everything off–we can’t afford to have kids until then. I’ve put number 2 on hold for years because there was always something else to do first. And while I’m trying to do number 3 more, it’s hard when I have to work 9-10 hour days because of work+class and then do homework (reading and essays) in the evening.

What does getting a degree do to advance those priorities? After next semester, I will have already taken every class required to get a BA in Religious Studies, I just haven’t taken enough “upper division” classes. I won’t be furthering my education by taking another five classes, I’ll just be paying the University more money and time to give me a piece of paper that doesn’t go towards advancing my priorities.

I have been in school for twenty years at this point. And it has been inarguably valuable. But do I really need to do more?

I do not want to be defined by a college degree.I want to be defined by what I do with my life, and perhaps that’s where my desire for completion comes. I lack definition, and getting a degree would have given me something while also marking the transition to pursuing my passions. So I could spend another two years in college to get a degree that gives me a label, or I can actually do something. I could write the book of poetry I dreamed up in the shower this morning, and return to my scifi novel, and actually finish a fantasy fiction short story. I can start experimenting and learning how to live and write about it. I could take up photography.

In a sense, I don’t want the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting the BA, because I don’t feel it is justified. What does that piece of paper prove? That I stuck it out? That I delayed my life another 1.5 years?

How much longer do I have do walk on this treadmill?

I have been looking forward to the end of next semester for years. Looking forward to finally having time to write, to being more involved with the church, to starting attending a small group again, and to figuring out how to live.

What is there besides school? I’ve been in school since I was four years old–I have no experience outside of it–and I wonder what’s out there. What else could I be doing? What would life be like?

I could live, instead of just waiting to live.

I’m not doing anything. I go, I do enough to get the grade, and I wait for them to hand me a piece of paper. Is this what life is supposed to be?

I’m going to meet with my advisor tomorrow to see what she says, but I doubt there’s any way around this 40-hour rule. And if it comes to that, is there any point in pushing myself through another two years?

And for those who are inevitably going to post, “Get your degree! It’s so worth it!” please, tell me why. Why is it worth it? Note that I already have a secure, full time job paying a good amount more than average for Springfield, and I’ve already learned everything the degree is intended to confer. Note that a degree in religious studies has no direct application to anything I want to do. I don’t intend, nor do I foresee, going on to graduate level studies, and if I did enroll for a graduate degree then I think it would have to be as a full-time student, not someone trying to do it while working full time (and if that were the case, I could finish up my undergrad in a semester or two). Note the above priorities.

I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I were really engaged with what I feel God is calling me to. I can’t see any reason to delay any longer.

What is happiness, peace, and fulfillment worth? Would a degree make me happy? Would I be happy if I let that goal go? I don’t know… I really don’t. Like I said, the thought of not finishing the degree–my thoughts going round and round for the last five hours–are stunning. It’s hard for me to accept the thought of not finishing. But the thought of going for another two years, for having been in college for nine years to get a degree to hang on the wall, and for no other purpose, is even harder to accept.

I’m going to brush my teeth and go to bed. God, be with me. Help this all make sense.

First & Calvary Presbyterian Church Cutting College Ministry

I am currently distributing this letter to members of First & Calvary Presbyterian Church who also happen to be faculty, staff, and/or students at Missouri State University, but also wanted to post it for everyone to read.

In short, First & Calvary Presbyterian Church has elected to respond to budgetary concerns by cutting the position of College Minister from a full-time staff position to part-time with no benefits. This will effectively mean the end of the college ministry at First & Calvary, a move I find particularly remarkable for a congregation that resides on a college campus. Because a lot of people weren’t aware the position was being cut, I wrote the above letter to notify them and encourage people to attend the upcoming Town Hall meeting.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that the church views college ministry as a component of Christian Education (that is, after all, the budget and line items under which the ministry has been placed), and strictly in terms of CE, it might be viewed as less than satisfactory. Many members have children who grew up in the church but, upon reaching college-age, stopped attending, and we have not been successful in getting those kids to come back. Moreover, we only have 5-10 college students attend on Sunday mornings, and if that’s the only means by which we are measured, it is difficult to justify a full-time position for 5-10 people.

However, the college ministry is so much more than that, and I fear that our benefits have been overlooked. As Brian wrote in The Review (the church’s weekly newsletter) last week, we have had over a hundred students through our doors in the last four months, with over thirty attending most every week, and have logged more than 150 hours of community service in the last semester. We serve members of the church as well as the campus community, but a lot of members don’t even know we exist.

Now is the time to let them know. If we’re going to get this decision reversed, we need to convince people that college ministry, that FnC, is not just a Christian Education youth group for five or ten kids. Rather, it is an outreach, a ministry that dives into one of the most important mission fields in the world, ministering to and discipling the future leaders and visionaries of our world. Working with college students means investing in the lives of those people who will, very soon, be changing the world in which we live. If you want to “go into all the world,” train college students in the teachings of Jesus and you’ll be right there.

There is a Town Hall meeting at the church this Sunday, February 1st, at 12:15 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room (downstairs, AKA the gym where the contemporary service is held). It is ostensibly for members of the church, but if you are a student, faculty, or staff member, not just of Missouri State but somewhere in the Springfield area, I would encourage you to attend and let your voice be heard. As far as I’m concerned, First & Calvary is stating that they are cutting missions work to the university, that the university is no longer valued or valuable, and that they see no need to invest in it.

I value college ministry highly, and cannot stand idly by when such talk is bantered around. Whether or not the above sentence represents the motivation or feelings of the people who voted to cut the ministry, it is most certainly the outcome. Cutting Brian’s position to part-time means the end of FnC and subsequently the end of any real missionary and discipleship work towards the university.

I will be at the Town Hall meeting, and I encourage you to attend as well. Let us show the church the value of a college ministry and implore them to reconsider.

To read my letter about the ministry, its impact, and its value, please click here.

Tithing Worship

As I was sitting at FnC the other night, reading email on my phone and editing some things on my blog, the music kicked up for worship and I didn’t feel like standing. I didn’t feel like pulling myself out of the funk I was in; I was tired and at the end of a very long day; I had received both good and bad news, and had some drama dumped on me; my heart wasn’t interested in worship.

But as I prayed and thought about it, I realized that it didn’t matter. Worship isn’t about me, it’s about praising my Lord. Like my tithe, God doesn’t need it. He doesn’t need my sacrifices, my money, or even my time. He is all-powerful, owns everything in the world, and holds my entire life and everything in it in His hands.

But because He saved me, and because He loves me, I owe Him my worship. I owe Him my time. Because in reality, it’s not my time, it’s His time.

God doesn’t really demand much of us. He asks a great deal in the Bible, and if I were to live a truly devout life, I would give far more to my Lord and Saviour than I currently do. But he isn’t demanding.

How niggardly to refuse to worship Him while my family sings songs in His praise. As Brian said, hallelujah.

“You will praise God.”

Housewarming Party Photos

Note: I’ve closed the massive photo gallery once hosted at SilverPen of well over 3,000 images we had taken and uploaded. We’ll continue to maintain a smaller set of public photos on Flickr, but will reserve the local photo gallery for our backups and friends/family who want to see more images.

I finally remembered to upload these (since we got Internet access last Wednesday night). Our housewarming party was a huge success; we had a great turnout, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Grilling was fun, and the food turned out well, though I certainly had a few lessons to learn about the process! I think I used about 3 times the amount of charcoal I needed.

We had about 20-21 people show up over the course of the 6+ hour party. All we supplied were hamburgers, buns, some condiments, and some drinks, and we asked people to bring whatever else they wanted. We ended up grilling some bison burgers, tofu burgers, Brian sautéed some mushrooms, and had an assortment of other things to eat and drink. In addition, since my birthday was the following week, April got me an ice cream cake ^.^

To celebrate, I bought some cigars, which we smoked on the front porch. Thanks to the wonder of foresight, I also bought some pipe tobacco; we didn’t have enough cigars for everybody (only 8-10 people had RSVPed, lol), but those who wanted to indulge were able. Brian won the contest for the longest ash, and Wacey got to enjoy the wonder that is Landshark (pipe tobacco available at Just For Him here in Springfield).

We ended the night with a 14-person game of Apples to Apples, which is always great at parties because you can have a virtually unlimited number of people playing. We didn’t start the game until around 11 p.m., and most of the group left after the first game. We only had 6 people for the second game, and finished around 12:30 a.m., at which point we were all pretty wiped out.

Thank you to everyone who came, and if you couldn’t make it, don’t worry, we’ll have another party of epic proportions just as soon as we can! Due to our schedule this semester, I think our next opportunity for a giant party of awesomeness +11 will probably be in December, probably just before the end of the semester. Mark it on your calendars and, until then, feel free to marvel at the photos (link below to the gallery). Thanks for making it a wonderful party and warming our home with your presence.

One week

You may not have noticed a lull at SilverPen Publishing, but I certainly have. I’m up to three or four blog entries swirling around my head that I want to put on the Christian Newlyweds blog, I’ll have a book (that I’m reading) to review by probably later tonight, and while I haven’t thought much about what comes next in The Stormsworn Saga, I’d like to get back to writing a little fiction. In my defence, I did get some new (or, rather, old) poems up, as well as the tech article on Tuesday, but in general I’ve just been very non-writerly.

A week from today, we close on our house. “Close” is the housing-lingo for “place our signature on paper after paper that signifies the transfer of the house from the seller to the buyer and legally obligates the buyer to pay money for the house.” It’s also when we hand over the down payment and get the keys. In the meantime, I’ve been setting up everything for the move: getting the utilities taken care of, the phone transferred, ordering trash pickup service, etc. We’ve also gone and purchased the appliances and furniture we’ll need upon moving, and I’m taking next Friday off so I can be there when they deliver and install the new appliances.

On top of all this, last Monday (only 3 days ago now?) marked the beginning of the semester. Since my internship at FnC is over, I’m able to return to real classes that actually demand something of me. I only have one such class, a 300-level survey of Buddhism, but I imagine that it’s going to be quite a challenge. Monday and Tuesday of this week were each around 13-hour days, so last night I didn’t do anything but lie on the couch and read. Tonight, I hope to finish the book I’m currently reading so I can move on to Buddhism.

FnC, by the way, was really good on Tuesday. We’ve got a new worship team, and the two of them are such a huge blessing to us. I’m really excited to have them there, not least of which because I feel like it lets me off the hook in regards to leading worship. Not that I would have been terribly involved this year anyways, due to my busy schedule, but I would have felt more guilty for being less involved.

This semester’s going to be wild; I’m already anxious for it to be over. But on the bright side, September will be half gone before I realize it, I’m going to be so ridiculously busy in October that I won’t even notice it fly by, and then we’re in November (and Thanksgiving always surprises me when it comes around). Halfway through December, the semester’s over, and then it’s a whole new year.

Let’s hope I don’t acquire any more gray hairs before we ring it in.

Brick-wall visioned

This last school year has been remarkable, not only for all that has been accomplished and changed, but also for how blinded I’ve been by everything going on. I have continuously been focused on the next big milestone, just trying to get through to that time, at which hopefully I will be able to consider the future again. Oh, I’ve made a few plans; I’ve started saving for a vacation to Seattle (for some reason, I was originally thinking it was in Portland >_> Which might cause issues…) in August of 2009, and I got this website re-done… but by and large, I’ve been focused on the next hurdle to jump, the next brick wall to knock down.

And now… there are no more walls. My vision is stretching to the horizon (which, on a planet the size of earth when on land, is about 3 miles; not all that impressive, when you think about it), and I’m beginning to consider future possibilities. My internship at First & Calvary is over. As I sat down to begin writing this morning, I was trying to figure out how to proportion my time to try and get as much done as I’d like to, but the truth is that I don’t have to do that anymore. Not right now, anyways, because my time is massively freed up and more flexible. I’ll have time to write every day now, and it only takes an hour to write four blog entries, so I can work on whatever I want and remain confident that I can keep up with my writing committments.

The subject of my professional career and its potentials has come up a lot in the last week and a half. We have new people starting and others leaving, positions opening and being filled, and the subject of where I’m going from here is one I hadn’t previously considered a whole lot. Between getting through classes, getting through the next big project at work, getting through the semester with FnC, getting through the wedding and the honeymoon… I just haven’t looked to the future.

Now I’m looking. Bring me the horizon.

Evolving Standards of Decency

Crossposted from the FnCCollege Blog

New Jersey passed a law today banning the death penalty and, at the same time, commuting the sentence of 8 individuals on death row (who will now serve life sentences in prison), including Jesse Timmendequas. His name might be unfamiliar to you, but you may have heard of Megan’s Law, inspired by Timmendequas’s rape, beating, and murder of seven year old Megan Kanka in New Jersey.

I’ve written and talked about capital punishment in a variety of settings, and usually the conclusion is this: we are in favour of the death penalty in response to certain crimes or in certain circumstances, but we feel that the current justice system and/or society is flawed and therefore is incapable of applying the death penalty honourably, equitably, and justly. The argument that it is better to have 100 guilty men escape than to sentence 1 innocent man to death is a powerful one. However, Jon Corzine, the governor of New Jersey, does not exactly make this argument (though he references it elsewhere in his comments). Instead, he states that we must ban execution because it is “inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.”

I don’t even know what that means. I have no idea what to do with the statement. Especially coming from a state like New Jersey, so renowned for its political corruption… but even setting that aside, I don’t know what he means by “evolving standards of decency.” What is it that has changed recently that would demand the end of the death penalty? What standard do we have now that we did not before? Personally, I feel that the death penalty, though it fails completely as a deterrent, is extremely effective at preventing an individual from committing crimes that they have proven they will repeat yet again, as was the case with Jesse Timmendequas who had twice been convicted of sex crimes — on 5- and 7-year-olds — before he murdered Megan. Govenor Corzine feels that the death penalty is not an appropriate moral or practical response to crime, even the crime of murder, and I’m OK with him having that opinion. I just don’t understand his reasoning.

I don’t have a conclusion to this issue, but I want to present it for thought. My mind is going to continue turning this phrase over and over, that execution is “inconsistent with evolving standards of decency,” and try to 1) figure out exactly what he means and 2) decide if I agree or not.

Full of muffiny goodness

I took a nap as soon as I got home yesterday, then woke up at 6:45 and went straight to the church for FnC. After a good night’s sleep (probably 12 a.m. to 7 a.m.), I feel significantly better, even though it’s rainy today and I forgot my umbrella at the church last night.

I discovered Scatman John recently and have been a bit obsessed… though it’s really only this song that I like. I’m thinking about playing it at the wedding (during one of the band’s breaks… did I mention that we’re going to have a live band?). Think other people would dance to it? I would, though I don’t think April’s really into this type of music…

I’ve been wondering lately how normal people write. That is to say, a couple of years ago, I was writing all the time. I always had something to say, and I was more creative, and I felt compelled to get everything out, everything down. Now, I’m happy and content, and I feel absolutely no motivation to write. Not the way I used to, anyways. I once read that the best poetry is written after the fact, when one can look back without the over-burdensome emotions of the moment and reflect on a time or event calmly. Part of the issue, I suppose, is that I just don’t have much time to write, but most of it is that I don’t feel inspired.

When I do have something I might write about, I’d rather talk with someone. That’s another aspect to the dilemma: Anything I might write about, I end up talking over with April. I bounce ideas off her and explore myself through conversation, rather than writing and introspection.

I’m going to close here. Read on for my latest entry on the FnC blog, which relates how my relationship with God is changing into something familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time.

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It’s only week 6

WordPress just released an upgrade, so I went ahead and did that. I love software that only requires a few seconds to backup, update, and continues to run the entire time.

I’m really tired. I should not be tired this early in the week.  2 years until I graduate, though, and I’m speaking at FnC tonight. And playing djembe. I hear tell that they’re going bowling, but I’m going to bed.

I have creative things I want to say/do, but I’m yawning instead. Rather than typing out my yawns, I’m going to hit “publish” and go back to downloading drivers at 60 KB/s…


Prayed, played djembe, worshiped, prayed, spoke, prayed.

Good time tonight. I’m exhausted–my day started at 7 a.m. and is just now coming to a close 15 hours later–but it has been good.

Skipped out on bowling so I could write a story. Being me, I’ll do it tomorrow… somehow… before my 5:30 night class. The upside is that only 4 of us are creative writing majors, so just about anything I do will be better than acceptable.

Also, I’m just not that big a fan of bowling… but I have proposed that sometime soon we go rock climbing at Petra either on a Tuesday night or on a weekend. Expect that soon.

Goodnight everyone. Love you, love God, love djembe, and I love my April. Can’t wait until tomorrow.