Week Christmas: Silence, Simplicity, Sabbath

xmas

“What are you [not] doing for Christmas?” my church bulletin cleverly asked. For me, not silence. Not secrecy or simplicity. And certainly, not sabbath. It’s been about one week and the gas tank in my hybrid car has gone from full to 1/8 full. I’ve been everywhere except alone before the Lord, and He continues to prompt me with how hazardous (and unnecessary) this busy-ness really is. Now that the gifts are wrapped, friends visited, and errands run, I wonder if I’ll ever do Christmas differently. I certainly hope I will.

Whether you find yourself stressed at Christmas dinner, glazing over during “What Child Is This?”, or perhaps happily relaxing with a warm holiday drink, shiny new toys, and satiated family members, enjoy a moment (or better, much more time) in awe of Him. He entered our world to take on our brokenness, so that we would one day take on His perfection. Have a blessed Christmas and New Year!

1. If you did not get to hear N.T. Wright debate Sean Kelly at Harvard’s Veritas Forum, it’s worth the watch!

2. Finding the commercial holiday culture a challenge, to say the least? The little drummer was a poor boy too.

3. A call for peace (among Christians) for Christmas– and every day after.

4. Spoiled children for the holidays? Hope you made your rules to Santa clear.

5. No matter what your specific holiday or end-of-year blues might be, Calvin & Hobbes says it best.

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On Our Minds: Week 5 (6?)

fallflorals8

What week is it–? It’s midterm month, actually. And as for those in the science and math departments, midterm season ends when final exam season begins. (As for me, it’s just read, write, repeat.)

Everyone is hard at work now and it can be a challenge to connect with each other during the week, hit the gym, do laundry, or even stroll through this gorgeous early-autumn warmth. Job recruitment is the talk of the town, as are theses (for seniors at least); freshmen are producing their very first college papers and learning what it means to scribble frantically in blue books; and sophomores and juniors are hopefully doing better than those above and below them.

But this is also the point in the semester when we grow quick to open our mouths in complaint, or wish we hadn’t committed to so much, or forget to put others before ourselves. Working hard and stressing out are no substitute for righteousness, and yet it seems to be the best excuse we can conjure up. I’m challenged to be grateful; and I don’t want to be sitting in front of the turkey, mashed potatoes and apple pie before I remember to say “Thank you God.” (And by the way, Thanksgiving is something in itself to look forward to.)

Here are some links that have made us think, laugh, and maybe even pray; I encourage you to look through some of them– or perhaps just out the window.

1. Excited for fall yet?? These dogs are.

2. Mike Johnston, senator from Colorado, visited a class at the Harvard Ed School today. His speech from 2012 might just inspire you.

3. Speaking of gratitude, let us not forget the persecuted church around the world.

4. The American prison system carries out justice, right? (Wrong.) Here’s just one reason why.

5. Issues in Cambodian governance through the lens of their sugar industry.

6. A solid reminder to fall out of love with weddings, and back in love with the journey ahead.

7. Tough day? (Week? Month? Year?) These 4 phrases might make it more bearable.

8. We often associate flowers with spring. But these work wonderfully for fall. Wish our campus farmer’s market sold them!

9. Never too early to start planning our Thanksgiving feasts. Would you throw in these sweet potato pastries?

On Our Minds: Week 4

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, Fearless Women’s Education Activist in the Middle East

The year is certainly in full swing. I see fewer people lounging in the Yard, lower temperatures in the mornings, and Lamont Library filling up with laptops, people, and coffee cups. Fall has officially arrived– and I know that because of the zealous (non-Harvard) individuals who celebrate it with lighting up the banks of the Charles for 3 hours on the first day of the season, singing what seems to be an odd medley of “Down By the Riverside” and bad opera. As far as I know, they also dance around a maypole in the spring.

This week has also been eventful around the world, which can sometimes leave our spirits downtrodden. As the globe spins and we go about our business, we remind ourselves of the God who is redeeming us, that we might partner with Him in redeeming the world.

Some of the links this week concern people who are changing the world. How do you plan on changing the world?

1. On Friday, Harvard will be honoring Malala Yousafzai with the annual Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award. Malala began blogging for girls’ education in the Middle East as a teenager, and did not stop even after taking a bullet from the Taliban.

2. Rick Warren’s racially offensive (ignorant) post receives a gracious and compelling response from a Chinese-American immigrant pastor.

3. An interview with 2  women of God who have followed Jesus in International Justice Mission and InterVarsity multiethnic ministry.

4. Is the new Pope changing the face of Popedom?

5. The Dead Sea Scrolls are on exhibit in the Museum of Science! Check it out if you’re in town before October 20th.

6. Wondering if a hug you gave someone was awkward? This buzzfeed manual might help.

7. I tried these sugar plum and cinnamon pancakes this week. They’re amazing.

On Our Minds: Week 3

Temperatures fluctuated like mad this week. We were in the 90s, and then in the 50s. Color has rushed into the trees, only to be met by end-of-summer humidity. My face is sticky and then really dry. This fluctuation doesn’t seem to bode well for the annually anticipated New England autumn, but we have faith. When the Yard turns golden and pea coats and scarves appear, we’ll have all sorts of food and festivities to look forward to.

The agony of course lotteries was upon us briefly before Study Card Day on Tuesday– when we physically handed in our course selections for the semester, complete with faculty signatures required. This is the first step towards routine, and eventually the dust will settle.

But in the meantime, a few things are on our minds:

1. Vogue condones birks??

2. The situation in Syria (and the question of global involvement) continues.

3. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) trend is rapidly picking up. But are people already cheating?

4. We love songs that capture our moments better than we can, like this one by Tenth Avenue North.

5. Need help getting in the mood for fall? Don’t forget about hot apple cider.

6. Fascinating and frivolous– nothing else could describe New York Fashion Week (other than this New Yorker piece).

fashion week

New York Fashion Week (New Yorker Mag)

 

On Our Minds: Week 2

Pie is on our minds. Not HUDS pie, real, homemade, peach pie.

Shopping week began on Tuesday, September 3rd this year. What is shopping? All the courses that are offered are open to any enrolled student who wants to check them out– doors open and close throughout lectures and seminars, we apply to courses and hope for the best, and we agonize over questions of workload, TFs and classmates. After a week, we decide on our 4 courses (for normal people; 5 for the over-ambitious; 6 for the insane*) after having tested out as many or as few classes as we’d like.

Beyond shopping, this has been a heavy week for extracurriculars. Every organization wants to jump in on the fresh meat on campus, some out of zeal, others out of competition, yet others out of conviction. Activities Fair is an exciting, chaotic, and fabulously frenzied yelling fest where you feel (perhaps for the only time in your life) like a celebrity. Everyone wants to talk to you and get you to come to their party/meeting/orientation. This was my 4th and final Activities Fair, and I might be okay with that!

*No offense to those of you who might be taking 6… I just hope I see you this year.

Anyway, there’s plenty of other things going on this week, and here are a few that have captured our minds:

  1. International relations and the role of the US in Syria
  2. The right to learn to cook in the 1970s?
  3. When we’re trying to reach out to freshmen (or friends at Harvard in general), sometimes this happens.
  4. Moments when we wish we had all the tools and time it took to make summer fruit pie.
  5. When Christ Came to New York?
  6. An HRCF alum working with hearing-impaired youth.
  7. Tonight the IV fellowships are sharing a delicious Korean dinner with freshmen and friends. Can’t wait to try Mako’s galbi!

On Our Minds: Week 1

This is a crazy week (and I feel like I’ll be saying that more, not less, as the season progresses). Freshmen are finishing up orientation, upperclassmen are moving in, various parts of our campus, as always, are hazardous construction sites to avoid, and thunderstorms are looming overhead. And, the first day of classes is just around the corner!

But in the midst of busy chaos I still find my mind all over the place, and sometimes it’s good to get a record each week of what I’m reading, listening to, thinking about, surfing through… so this series is exactly that– for HRCF. We’ll collect a list of links and things to meditate on each week so you can keep up with what’s on our minds. Here goes!

1. Death of Seamus Heaney.

2. We all start the year with new expectations. Freshmen especially. Here’s a proxe station we’ll host next Saturday.

3. When does a dorm room become a home? Inspiring photos

Seamus Heaney, poet, nobel prize winner, former Harvard prof, died  Aug 30, 2013.

Seamus Heaney, poet, nobel prize winner, former Harvard prof, died Aug 30, 2013.

to admire and wish we had the budget for.

4. Pancakes and the Theology of Harry Potter— our first HRCF event! Amazing turnout.

5. What does your word for soda say about where you’re from? A fascinating map on American linguistic conflicts.

6. Thoughts are often inspired by our surroundings. A thought-provoking reflection from the emergency room.

7. Possible HRCF outing is coming up to the Taza Chocolate Factory in Somerville, MA. $5 for a tour and all the chocolate you can eat!

Choosing concentrations, courses, and careers

As a senior I can look back on the past few years and consider the countless conversations I’ve had about the future– what I’m going to do, where I’ll live, with whom, and the rest. These are true considerations on the minds of college students; for many of us, college was the first definitive choice we made on our own (or perhaps almost on our own), and beyond college is a wealth of opportunities that threaten to overwhelm us.
As a History concentrator I often get asked, “What will you do with that?” And yet, I wonder whether the connection between concentration and career need to be so direct. Is the former so indicative of the latter? I’ve heard it said often in the past decade or so that the BA is now the new high school diploma; it has become a basic qualification, and any further qualifications require many hours on the job or perhaps an advanced degree.
But beyond the constant reshaping and negotiating of the meaning of that BA (or, in Harvard’s case, AB) is the question of calling and career. As a Christian and as a painfully purpose-driven individual, I’ve committed myself to taking a job or a role in which whether I get out of bed in the morning will actually matter. I struggle with the idea of crunching numbers that disappear into an invisible technological universe, or strategically moving large sums of money around for sake of more conspicuous consumption. Is my work relational? Is it edifying? Does it make an impact, however small, on the brokenness of this world?
And even more importantly than my own emotional fulfillment– am I being a good steward of God’s gifts to me as a unique participant in His reconciliation with the world? I’ve begun to understand what Fred Buechner meant when he said, “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” This is the place– whether an office, a home, a classroom, a desert, a shop, a farm– where we find our greatest joy in the joy of the Lord, whose generosity and grace enable us to take part in His redemption project. The gain, then, of selecting a concentration or even a career, is the effectiveness it enables me to have in God’s kingdom.
So, what will I do with this AB in History? Well, the short answer is, I will teach. But it won’t be because I have this degree; in fact, I might even teach 4th grade math. I will teach because I’ve found myself rejoicing in mentorship; drawn to the inner city;  desperate to know what makes children thrive; because I want to be present there in the classroom everyday, for years. THAT is my deep gladness.
We will all eventually come to terms with how our courses, concentrations, and careers play a role in our lives as witnesses to God and participants in His kingdom. But, if you are struggling with the future implications of every class you take, I invite you to press in on whether Fred Buechner was speaking to you too. Whether it’s economics or computer science or classics or music, these things are only a part of your unique story that will be filled with far greater beauty, impact, and glory than anything the concentration-turned-career paradigm could conjure up.