The current and past three presidents of Concordia University, St. Paul, Rev. Dr. Tom Ries (2011 – Present), Rev. Dr. Robert Holst (1991 – 2011), Dr. John Johnson (1989 – 1991), and Rev. Alan Harre (1984 – 1989), gathered this evening for a panel to answer questions about their experiences during tenure. Those who attended the panel ranged from former faculty and staff to currents faculty and staff to their family members to alumni to current students. As a students attending the event, I felt a little under dressed, for this was a semi-formal event, which I was unaware of that until I walked into the auditorium. Aside from feeling a bit out of place, it was fascinating to here first hand accounts of how Concordia has grown over the past 29 years from the leaders of this institution of education.
Five questions were asked to the panel, spanning from favorite memory to the legacy they left. After the first few questions asked it was very evident that each of the presidents have different ways of knowing. Rev Harre is strong in observation, Dr. Johnson is strong in revelation, Rev. Dr. Holst is strong in emotion, and Rev. Dr. Ries is strong in reason. Each president brought a knew perspective to CSP during their tenure; they were able to pick up where the last left off and lead Concordia to success and prosperity.
This was a unique opportunity for current students, such as myself, to get a glimpses into the past, so that we may see and understand the great legacy we are a part of. This also is an opportunity for us to appreciate what has been done in the past so that we are where we are today. This evening I learned that Concordia only recently, when Dr. Johnson was president, that Concordia began to expand the the programs offered. The university itself had to expand the ways of knowing that were being taught to the students. Concordia would not be as successful as it is today if it did not expand past church work majors. By doing so Concordia now prepares its students for more than just a job after graduation. Students are being prepared to be contributing members of society by learning how to think beyond how they already know. Students are being exposed to new cutlers and experience that helps shape them and expand their understanding of life.
Walking into the BEC was a little overwhelming, because there were different stations around the room where students presented and explained their research. The board that caught my attention was done by a fellow Honors student and member of the lambda class, Solomon Spangler. His research project was titled “Cell Phones and Their Attentional Cost” and his thesis was the mere presence of a cell phone is distracting. The results of his study confirm his thesis.
Solomon’s research can be applied to topic of Christian vocation, because a Christian vocation, by my understanding, is any kind of work or action that benefits and/or serves another individual or group. By serving others, one is then giving service to God. Solomon’s research confirmed his thesis that cell phones are a distraction, and, if it is our calling as Christians to serve others, how can we do so if we are distracted by our phones and not paying attention to the world around us? We cannot, is my answer, for we are sinners by nature. However, with the power of the Holy Spirit the temptation of sin can be overcome, allowing us to serve others without getting distracted.
I allow my cell phone to be a distraction when it should not be, especially in church. Church is a time when my full attention is needed in order to fully appreciate and receive the gift of God’s grace. There is always something in the sermon that I need to hear, and if I am distracted by my phone, then I will miss the message. And so many times I have been walking down the street or a hallway while on my phone, completely blocking out the world around me. And because of Solomon’s study, I now wonder, what if I had not been on my phone? Would I have had an interaction when someone that would have given me the opportunity to share the love and grace of God with them? Actions as small as a smile can be an impact larger then we realize, and that is when we are serving others. I make it a habit to turn my phone off during church, so I do not miss the message and because of Solomon’s study, I will be more cautious about when I am on my phone and will make an effort not be on it as I walk down to the street or the hallway, so that my full attention will be on serving others.
Dorothy Sayers lived from 1893 to 1957. She was a one of the first women to graduate from Oxford University; she worked as a journalist. In her writing, Vocation in Work, she explains that one’s work should be meaningful and creative and engaging of the mind. Humans were created in the image of God, and God is a creator. God created humans because he wanted to and for his own pleasure, not because He had to. Thus, humans are creators too, and ideally, work should be creative and for our pleasure, not solely for economical gains. This also applies to how leisure time should be spent; it should not be spent doing unproductive mind numbing actives, but should engage and work the mind and be creative and meaningful.
Dorothy Sayers’ philosophy on vocation and work would be beneficial in today’s society. Because our society is so caught up in making money, we often forget that leisure time can and should be spent doing something that actively engages the mind. Leisure time could be spent volunteering in the community instead of falling asleep in front of the TV. Causing individuals to serve their neighbors, in turn serving God.
I agree with Sayers’ philosophy on how leisure time should be spent. When I spending a whole day watching Netflix and getting nothing accomplished, I do not feel well and I do not like spending my free time that way. I prefer to spend my free time outside being active or playing one of my many instruments. I like to stay active, both physically and mentally, because it helps me perform better at my summer job and keeps me healthy. My summer job is a lifeguard and pool manager at a private pool in Virginia Beach, VA. My job is physically and mentally demanding and requires me to interact with people, all day, every day. The interactions with people give me many opportunities to share the love of God with the patrons. So how I spend my free time affects my vocation, because if I do not take care of myself then I can not do my summer job.
Simone Weil lived from 1909 to 1943 and joined the Resistance during WWII when Germany occupied France. She grew up as a Jew, but mystical experiences brought her close to Catholicism. In her essay, reflections on the right use of school studies with a view to the love of God, for a group of Catholic schoolchildren she explains how “it is the highest part of the attention only which makes contact with God, when prayer is intense and pure enough for such a contact to be established; but the whole attention is turned towards God” (Callings, p. 400). And our calling is for our souls to grow closer towards God. Weil goes on to explain how the attention needed for prayer is beneficial when used on school studies, which in turn benefits attention in prayer.
Weil’s emphasis on attention is a great reminder for Christians today, for in a world full of distraction it is easy for us to get caught up in all the chaos and our prayer life suffers because of it. Weil reminds us that we need to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). The attention she speaks of in her essay is an intense and solemn concentration, and in today’s society that is not easy to achieve. With so many distractions in our lives, we often forget to make time for deep prayer, to have a conversation with God in which we are listen for Him. When we still ourselves and listen for God, His will for us is revealed.
In third grade I was diagnosed with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, so attention and concentration are not my strongest qualities. So, Weil’s philosophy on applying the same attention to school work as prayer is inapplicable to me. For, with ADHD I cannot sit still in silence for hours working on one problem; if I were do to so I would fail and would not be able to concentrate. Because the way my brain is wired, I always having to be physically doing something or my brain has have something to keep it active, like having more than one think to think about. So that makes prayer challenging for me, especially since I get distracted rather easily. However, Weil’s philosophy can apply to me, for if I practice concentration and attention on my school work then it will make using them for prayer easier. I need my prayer life to improve, because right now it is weak and I feel lost. I pray to God for guidance, but I do not think I am paying God enough attention; to hear His answers. God can overcome anything and everything; He can overcome my ADHD. I just need to give Him my attention so he can do it.
Brad Hewitt, the CEO of Thriven,t came to Concordia University, St. Paul on Wednesday, March 21. Students and faculty members came to hear him speak. His short lecture was on the meaning of the motto “Live Generously.” He explained that it is not about how we use money, but the mindset we have about money that allows us to live generously.
In his talk Brad Hewitt explained that when we have the proper mindset about money, then we are fulfilling our call from God; because money does not and should not be an obstacle to vocation. Money does not measure our success in life, because when we depend on money, we will always be unsatisfied. So, we must depend on God and we will find peace and comfort in Him. And when we depend on God, our money will be used properly to not only provide for our earthly needs, but also provide for the needs of others.
Attending this convocation gave me some of the tools I need to serve God as a computer scientist; because I have always known that I can serve God through my interactions with others, but I have always been unsure about how we serve God with money. Growing up in the church, I was taught that we need to tithe, to give 10% back to the church. Tithing alone is not enough to serve God. If more money can been given to the church or other organizations, then it should be. Money should be used to serve and benefit others just as our talents. Computer scientists are know to have an annual income of over $100,000, and I did not choose computer science because of the money. I choose it because I know I can be of benefit to others with. And after the convocation, I feel more prepared to serve God in every aspect of my life.
George Herbert’s poem The Collar describes the conflicts he faced in order to accept his calling. During the time of George Herbert England had declared its own denomination, The Church of England. Within the Church of England Herbert had the potential to hold a position of high authority, but he choose to become a pastor of a small church in the country. Herbert struggled with accepting his calling from God, which is made evident in the poem. In the first half of the poem the rhyme scheme is random and unstructured, for he is expressing how chaotic life is without God and feels in trapped by the world, fear, and sin. Near the end of the poem there is a shift from chaos to order and the rhyme scheme develops a patterns. The shift to order expresses how life with God is peaceful and makes sense. So once Herbert accepted his calling from God his life peaceful, for he was no longer tied down by fear.
This poem can be applied to all Christians and all people, because life is chaotic without God and without knowing one’s purpose in life. For we are all called by God to be servants to our neighbors, and when we accept the call, we are no longer slaves to fear and sin. With God in our lives there is order and purpose.
I am still struggling to understand what my specific calling is by God. I know He is calling me to serve Him and my neighbors, but I do not know exactly how he wants me to do so. I thought I knew what I am meant to do with my life. But recently I have been feeling a stronger call to go into church work. I am hesitant to accept that call because I do not know if it is what God is calling me to do or if it is what I think God wants me to do.
The Poehler Lecture Series is an annual event crafted to discuses how faculty members find their Christian faith active in the College of Business & Technology, the College of Education, and the College of Humanities & Social Science. The speaker of the 2018 lecture was Tom Hanson, MBA, J.D., Professor of Management and Law. Professor Hanson delivered a message regarding the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and how Christians should use the Freedom of Speech to build community and unity.
In the lecture Professor Hanson discussed how the First Amendment right to the Freedom of Speech is to be used to build community. I was reminded me a quote used in Callings, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and world’s deep hunger meet” (Frederick Buechner, Quoted in Callings, 3). Because God is calling Christians to make disciples of all nations, we can make disciples of all nations by use our words to bring people together.
My whole life I have felt to called to serve the country in someway, probably because most of my family serves or had served in the military, and they have inspired me to want to serve as well. I feel called to serve the country because it would be my way of saying, “Thank You” to my family who has served. But serving in the military is not God’s plan for me. That was hard for me to accept because all I want to do is serve. I know God is calling me to serve; I have yet to figure where and how He needs me to serve. However, I know I am called to use my words to speak the truth of God, to share the love of God with all to whom I speak. I am called to use my words to point the world back to Him.
John Calvin was a Protestant reformer and the founder of Calvinism. He defined the “general calling,” the calling to be a Christian, as an invitation of faith to all. And he defined the “special calling,” as only working in the hearts of the elect to bring them to faith.
John Calvin’s main principle of how to live as a Christian is “God’s gifts is not wrongly directed when it is referred to that end to which the Author himself created and destined them for us, since he created them for our good, not for our ruin” (Callingsp. 235). The talents and gifts God has given us will be used in our callings. We are to the talents and gifts God has given us for the service of others. For when we serve others we serve God.
Most people find themselves having more than one talent and gift from God. I am one of those people. God has given me the gift of being musically talented as well as the gift of enjoying and understanding computer science. For the past month or so I have been feeling torn between two my two passions. I see this a dilemma because I feel like I can only go after one of my two passions. But I am now realizing I can follow both, for God give me both passions to serve others, not for me to have to chose. My special calling will incorporate my passions. So I do not need to chose one passion over the other; I just need to be mindful that I am putting the service of others as a top priority.
The Concordia University Ceramics Biennial is an art gallery curated by Korla Luckeroth Molitor that features ceramic art. One of the featured artist, Eileen Cohen, created this piece called Window Dressing, which caught my eye, because when I think of ceramics, I do not think of bows on a wall; in fact I think of pottery. The artist had written a description for this piece. In the description she talks about how one associates bows with being girly but she wanted to give the bows a masculine vibe to them. She gave the bows a sense of masculinity by painting them black with slightly dull finish. I believe Eileen Cohen’s underlying meaning in this piece is that there is always two sides to everything. Nothing is one sided with one perspective. She achieved her purpose by creating ceramic masculine bows.
Being a ceramic artist and artist in general requires interdisciplinary learning just as the Honors Program at Concordia University, St. Paul. Because artists have to understand perception, how shadows work, angles of perspective, and color theory, there are many components to a piece of art and many steps to create the art. Similarly, in the Honors Program we approach learning in an interdisciplinary way. Last semester in the Honors Program, we studied anatomy and rituals studies. We discussed and explored how ritual studies relates to anatomy and visa versa. The purpose of the Honors Program is to connect faith with learning, to show that God is present in every subject matter and in all aspects of life.
Going to the ceramic biennial gave me a new found appreciation for art. Before, I had thought everyone is an artist in their own way so I didn’t understand what’s so great about art. But taking the time to read the description of Eileen Cohen’s art work allowed me realize that this, making art with ceramics, is her life, it’s her calling, she has found the place where her “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (Frederick Buechner quoted in Callings, 3). She has found what I am still searching for. There are times when I think I have figured out where God is calling me to, but just as things make sense in my life, everything falls apart, things go wrong, or do not go the way I want/thought they should have gone, and I find myself slipping into depression. And I let myself stay there, in depression, because I have lost motivation to do much of anything. I let the darkness consume me, and I fall deeper in, only to hit rock bottom; but that’s alright, because God is The Rock and He is leading me back to Him. It takes the world knocking me down to allow God to lift me back up. And as long as I live my life with Him as my guide, I have found my calling and answered it.
“Concordia University, St. Paul’s Concert Band’s spring concert was beautiful, and the clarinet section sounded phenomenal,” I say as a member of the concert band in the clarinet section. Aside from my biased opinions, the concert and tour went very well. While on tour the band members were able to form closer friendships, which in turn improved our performances. That happened because as the friendships formed and grew, members of the band became more aware of other members. During performance as musicians we are more aware of what’s going on around use, so we balance our sounds and blend to each other creating beautiful music. There were two songs in particular when the band had peaked, Beside Still Waters and Wayfaring Stranger. Both songs had deep spiritual meanings, which allowed the band to connect on the songs. As each musician put emotion into the music and felt connected to piece, the whole band connected to bring the music to life.
Being a musician is a calling; being a band member is a calling. Each individual has multiple callings, just as each member of the band has multiple responsibilities. Every member is responsible for making sure they are in tune with their sections and with the whole band and for the care of their instrument, for learning the music, and for playing their part. Musical composition consists of different parts for each instrument section. For example, the part the tuba plays is not going to be the same part the piccolo plays. And then within each instrumental sections, there a different parts. For instance, there are generally three parts for clarinet, part one playing mostly melody and parts two and three playing counter-melody and harmony. The Concordia University, St. Paul concert band is not a very large ensemble, so most of time it is one person per part. That puts more responsibility on the musicians who are the only ones playing a part. Every part is important because if it was not important then it would not have been written. The same goes for those who are answering the call to be a Christian, because God created each one of us with a purpose for serving Him and our neighbors. If we do not do so, then we are missing out on the wonders of Gods doing.
Music has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember from when I was a baby and my parents would play classical music while slept to being involved in almost every instrumental group at Concordia University, St. Paul. And it has always been a part of how I worship. My parents, brother, and I are all involved in the music groups at our church in Virginia. My mom is the hand bell director and my dad, brother, and I play in the praise teams and in hand bells when my mom needs us to. So I have always known that music is a form of worship and that God has given me the gift of music to worship Him. But band tour and being in band at CSP has taught that music can be used for more than worshiping God. Music can be used to plant the seed of faith in people’s heart, for sometimes they need to hear the right song in the right moment to be moved by the music. Even though my major is not music, I might minor in it, and I fully intent to keep music in life for as long as I can, because God has given me this gift and I shall use it for His glory. Because, if I do not use the gifts God has given me, then I am not doing my part as a Christian to serve Him and my neighbors in everything I do.