Reflection

My Shifting Values of Higher Education and Dream-Job-Chasing

I recently became a fan of Marty Nemko, and it was the video at the bottom of this page that did it. There is a man who has consumed a lot of higher education and also worked for and in such institutions (both teaching and evaluating, at Berkley), yet he says higher degrees are often unnecessary and indeed a bad choice for many individuals.

This is no new idea; really, it’s very folksy wisdom in some ways.  America is obsessed with chasing dreams (a great thing), and we’re all about “finding one’s passion in life.” There a plenty of business podcasts and tweets telling us to quit our jobs and start our dream coffee shop. To an older generation, though, perhaps this sounds ridiculous.

After all, how many accountants ever had a burning desire to do accounting?

I’m not saying people should keep a job they’re miserable with, but I do say:

Finding a job you’re passionate about might not be as important as finding a way to be passionate about your work.

Some say it’s not what you do that matters but how you do it. Perhaps that oversimplifyies things a bit, but you get the point. A recent podcast from The Art of Manliness (Brett McKay) interviewed Cal Newport. Cal and Brett mentioned the research he found for Cal’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. I listened during breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can find it here.

Here’s why I care:

I was in college for two or three years (it’s hard to keep count, considering how long I was there), and I had no major. After finally choosing Global Studies, I decided I wanted something more–practical. I wanted to teach, so I changed my major to English, with a minor in Secondary Ed and kept Global Studies as a second minor. By the way, this was after the two photography classes I took that went towards no part of my degree. I then proceeded to accept a scholarship to study Chinese for a year in Hangzhou, which counted nothing toward my degree but was an awesome experience that changed my life. I married my wife there; in fact, she’s one of the main reasons I applied. 🙂

I now study at Harding School of Theology for a Masters of Divinity and love every class. Nonetheless, I’m 26 years old and married, so I spend much time thinking about work and school. For me, I have to balance the two, and the ratio is always an area I debate in my head: should I work more? Should I study more and finish sooner?  Do I need this big degree or should I go for a shorter M.A.? I can only answer for myself and not for you.

That being said, here’s my two cents:

One shouldn’t go to college just because it’s the next “logical” step for a high school student with good or decent grades. If one does go, unsure of what to study, I recommend choosing a narrow degree in business (if engineering or another topic isn’t clearly calling to you), and sticking with it: Get in, get out. Then, if you realize you want to do something else, pursue a master’s in that field.

If you really are passionate about something that doesn’t make lots of money, pursue it. But ask yourself if you need a degree to start doing that kind of work. If you want to be a writer, I’d suggest you just start writing and save your work. Build a portfolio and present yourself in front of the person you want to work for.

If you decide to go to college, though, spend some serious time studying careers before you start. Don’t lolly-gag. Look at the United States Department of Labor’s free Occupational Outlook Handbook online, and you can find estimates on specific careers (that you’ve never even considered, perhaps!): projected growth rates/demand, salaries,  required training, et cetera. An entire branch of government is dedicated to this research. Take advantage of it.

Watch Marty Nemko’s video. I like his observation that community colleges might be a great value! That’s great news for folks in McMinnville, Tennessee and just about anywhere. Watch the video to hear his thoughts based on experience and researching and working in that field. His job, after all, is to assess these things. Give him a listen and see what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

This has little to do with intelligence and much more to do with pragmatism. Of course continuing learning is good for everyone, but bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are not the only route to a smart, successful, and happy lives. Experience, seminars, internships, apprenticeships, certificate programs, trade schools, and community colleges are valuable options for continuing education.

What Colleges and Graduate Students Don’t Want You to Know:

 

Additional Resources: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/24/is-college-for-everyone-part-ii-the-pros-and-cons-of-attending-a-4-year-college/

Getting Older–or Younger?

Mom, Dad, thanks for having me.

I’m 26 years old today, and I’ve spent the last three years trying to figure out what it really means to be a man.

[Que Damien Rice or Bob Dylan song.]

Truly, many a good song have been written (by others) in search of the same answer. Something has clicked recently, though, and I’m simply less concerned about it all. Don’t get me wrong, young men and women in their twenties should be ambitious, hard-working, and responsible–but that doesn’t require the exclusion of fun.

So for my birthday, I asked my wife to get me a pair of shoes from the skateboarding world. (It is a different world, by the way, very fun and outrageously creative.) That’s where I resided from around the ages of 13-21; I still take short vacations there from time to time.

I’m feeling younger already.

This morning, I remembered reading C.S. Lewis’ words about what it means to be “adult.” I hope they encourage you to be comfortable in your own skin and to do your best, however young or old you are:

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

Singing after Supper (in Chinese)

I’ve uploaded some songs we sang recently. I’m hesitant to give too many details, but I’ll say there were around 20 people gathered together, about 75% being Chinese Christians. We had a feast, and the food was followed by some singing of worship songs. I recorded these two via my phone, so the quality is low–just the way these young folks like it. I hope you enjoy it and praise God.

Tim Keller – Christ Is Your King

“Democracy is medicine, not food.” -C.S. Lewis

We all worship something or someone, admittedly it or not, so choose the real king: Jesus Christ.

Tim Keller – Christ Is Your King

As Keller gives instruction on how to treat Jesus like a king, namely, to accept whatever he gives (including orders), in prayer, Keller recalls a stanza of John Newton’s hymn, which I like:

“Thou art coming to a King,

Large petitions with thee bring;

For His grace and power are such,

None can ever ask too much;

None can ever ask too much.”  

via Tim Keller – Christ Is Your King 

A Copy of St. Andrews Seven

John Piper said St. Andrews Seven is one of the best books he has read on missions, so a lot of people (including me) flocked to Amazon to buy said book, months ago.

This book is no longer in print.

That afternoon, the prices increased from $30 to $50 to $75 and then…almost $300? (We’re talking about a tiny, used book). I didn’t buy it originally because I thought $30 was too steep for a used book…

I was creating an Evernote about the experience today as I sat down to read the copy I checked out at HST (from the phenomenal library on campus), when I decided to check to see if there are any copies on Amazon  still for $300 a pop), just for the sake of accurate note-creating, today, and there were some.

The price was still jacked up except for on one copy! Caught and bought after being sought for months–you rascal!

St Andrews Seven

St Andrews Seven

I think I’ll wait for that copy in the mail, so I can make notes in it (with pencil).

This evolved from an Evernote note, to a Facebook Status, to a blog post before I could save or submit the former–

My, how things can escalate quickly.

Psalm 50: God Shines Forth

              The Mighty One, God the Lord,

       speaks and summons the earth

        from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,

       God shines forth.

(Psalm 50:1-2 ESV)

© 2013 Clint R. Boyd.

© 2013 Clint R. Boyd.

God “speaks and summons the earth.” Right off the bat, The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons. He is the boss, but what kind of boss is he?

Well, we get a picture — of the sunrise and sunset. The Psalmist is saying that this speaking and summoning is done from dusk ’till dawn, but with the words sunrise and sunset comes a memory of a splendid sight for those who’ve seen the sun rise and/or set. For any who haven’t had working eyesight to see a sunrise or sunset, this must be calling upon the one of the greatest faculties of the human mind: imagination.

Either way, clearly we are invited to get a greater understanding God by mentioning him directly after the sun’s radiant rising and setting:

“God shines forth.”

He is not a gloomy God. This is not Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The Lord Almighty is righteous, Holy, and just, always loving and using honest weights and scales (Proverbs 16:11). He is not an oppressor. He is the Great Giver. That’s why He doesn’t need anything from us, nor can we provide much for him past adoration, worship, trust, and thanksgiving.

“I will not accept a bull from your house

or goats from your folds.

For every beast of the forest is mine,

       the cattle on a thousand hills.

I know all the birds of the hills,

       and all that moves in the field is mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

       for the world and its fullness are mine.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls

       or drink the blood of goats?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

       and perform your vows to the Most High,

and call upon me in the day of trouble;

       I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

(Verses 9-15)

Thankfulness is how I should feel and be toward God. You and I were created to glorify and ENJOY Him — to bask His radiance, mercy, and forgiveness — forever. All of that is made possible, of course, by Jesus Christ, who was slain for that purpose, then resurrected: the greatest news in the history of mankind.

Match Point Opening Scene: Luck vs. Greatness

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

Last night Linli and I watched a movie given to us by a dear friend who asked us to pass it along after we watched it: Match Point. She probably asked us to pass it along not because the message is the best, but more likely because not many people will want to watch it more than once. By no means is it a “feel good” film, but Match Point is interesting and definitely provocative. I will not go into more detail, but I do want to share the opening scene because I think it is beautifully done.

The movie’s themes, aside from commenting on the dichotomy of love/lust and marriage, strongly revolves around fate having a greater role than ability.

I love reading, listening to, and watching artist’s explorations of the ancient question: how much of life is in our control?

One verse in the Bible that I believe gives us insight, despite how many Christians will disagree, is the one at the top of this post, and below:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

The NIV even translates the word as “intended” rather than “meant.” There is a large difference between this idea, that God not only knew it was going to happen but moreover meant that it take place, is quite different from the common, “oh, God will use it for good, even though you meant it for evil.” True, he will, but this verse, often misquoted, says that he meant it for good, and I do not believe that He makes mistakes.

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/how-can-i-believe-that-god-is-in-control-when-something-bad-happens#/listen/full 

*By the way, I do not recommend the aforementioned movie to everyone. To the Christian strong in faith, I do. To those easily offended, I do not. Indeed, the taking of the Lord’s name in vain several times in the movie is hard to hear, but for some, the movie may provide insight without causing them to sin. The film is rated R for “some sexuality.”

Letter to Friends and Family: On Some of My Faith, Mistakes, and Redemption

Dear friends,

This is a joyful message, but I’ll (try to) be brief. I’m guessing many of you, over the last few years, perhaps beginning just before my first trip to China, noticed a change in my Facebook personality. Fewer are the posts linking you to an obscure music video, and more are the posts related more to matters of faith, especially, Jesus, the Christ.

Have I been converted? This time a better would might be, reclaimed.

If you knew me in high school (most of the intended audience here fall into this category), you might recall that, though I had my (completely embarrassing, regretful) moments of bad behavior, I was not considered wild. Then came college, and thought I still don’t think I would be considered wild by my many folks’ definition of the word, I got off track before I even got started at MTSU. I hurt many of friends during that time, and I have lost sleep over it in the past, I assure you.

And “it happens,” but that’s no excuse. (I owe my friends better). My years in the wilderness–that is, a very liberal university–consisted of more bad times than good, in my own heart, spiritually. Not because of the atheistic teachers, no. More like, my own behavior was causing my spirit to whither. That is not to say I do not treasure the friends I’ve made at MTSU or the memories I made at Screamin’ Jacks gigs and so forth. I love them. However,I was “searching for myself” at a very expensive cost, spiritually and relationally.

Fast forward–it was not marriage that brought me to Jesus. That is, I am not merely “settling down” after getting married, and becoming more “into” church, or whatever that means. No, no, and (wait for it)–no.

Actually, one day during a yoga spell I went through, I was on the floor of my bedroom at Bilbro Ave. and  must have began to pray. I realized how unfruitful my first couple of years at MTSU had been. I felt like I had wasted so much of my time, my health, and frankly, my parents’ money. So, I prayed for the Lord to “make me into the man he created me to be.”

Enter Jesus-freak mode. I began chasing God via Christian routes. While the first few years of college were spent looking for him in all of the other main forms of religion, now I had almost come full circle. What were the odds that I was born in the right place at the right time to know who He really is? Well..

I finished my circle, as it were, probably not long before that prayer on the floor at Bilbro, when I sat down with my dear older friend (like a brother), who told me that he was moving to Africa for several years to do mission work. In a way, at that table, I must have experienced a moment of grace, or perhaps just an epiphany of “what was I thinking?–of course Jesus is the way.”

That was about five years ago, and perhaps I’ll explain more of what the last five years have been like, soon. For now, I express my regret and apologies to friends and family I’ve hurt by living for the wrong reason, namely, to make much of myself (instead of Christ).  I ignored many of my dearest friends and family in order to escape reality. That is not to say I am perfectly wise now, of course, but I like to think I make a lot better decisions than I was making for a while there. So, I want to express joy and thanksgiving, because God has been really, really good to me, and having time to read a letter like this on Facebook, WordPress, or wherever, he’s been really good to you, too. The fact that we’re breathing right now–is a gift.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

Medgar Evers Through Bob Dylan and Paul

Fifty years ago, a hard-working, risk-taking, family-loving man was shot in the back, dead in his own driveway for his efforts leading the NCAAP in the Civil Rights Movement. His name was Medgar Evers.

That was only fifty years ago.

evers_medgarmedgarmarching

As we get older, history seems shorter in perspective. In high school, to me, the Civil Rights movement and segregation sounded so far away because it was forty of fifty years earlier, and that was almost three or four times my age then. To a twenty-five year old now, however, fifty years ago is only twice that age, so the perspective changes.

Thankfully, We The People have come quite far in the last fifty years, in terms of segregation, by the grace of God. There is, of course, still work to do, and there always will be.

I first heard of Medgar Evers, though,  in the opening lines of “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” a song Bob Dylan wrote in 1963, the same year of Evers’ death:

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game

The last verse also explicitly references Evers and his burial:

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game

Read more: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/only-a-pawn-in-their-game#ixzz2VNQnQiUO

Thirty years passed before the jury convicted Evers’ murderer, according to Debbie Elliot’s NPR blog today. Those years surely crawled by, especially for Reena Evers-Everette. Even when Medgar was alive, however, the last decade of their marriage was still fettered to fear, she says:

“And we never knew from one day to the next what would happen. I lived in fear of losing him. He lived being constantly aware that he could be killed at any time.” (NPR-Elliot)

So the shooting of Medgar Evers was not something that happend randomly: it had been a long time coming, and Evers lived waiting for it.  Yet he kept at the work he knew he was called to do.

In the book of Phillipians, Paul writes:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (3:17, ESV)

I am certainly no expert on Medgar Evers nor the Civil Rights, but it seems clear that Evers was a man who looked fear and evil in the eye, without a blink, and kept on working.

Such a person is to be honored.

To read more about Medgar Evers, see his entry in the encyclopedia of the King Institute, here:  http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_evers_medgar_1925_1963/

A Slight Reflection (with the Hope of Moving Forward)

Well, the light at the end of my undergraduate tunnel is shinning brightly, belated being better than never.

Of course, my “extra” time spent at MTSU has given me more time to grow, but boy oh boy, have I traveled down some bizarre routes.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12, ESV).

I am writing this to help myself more than anyone else, this time, but I am sharing it online because I believe that hearing each other’s stories, no matter how seemingly vain (the work is to the author), helps us all, or at least someone else, in one way or another.

I have searched for God in the darkest of places, and though He was not there hiding under any rock or crevice that I had expected to find him near, He showed up for me.

I tried to run from a life with Christ; I tried to hide. Now is not the time to (try to) explain why I chose that, for a spell). I was curious that He might be elsewhere, in a different set of beliefs, that maybe there is no objective truth.

But no.

He was right where they, in the Bible, said He was, and is, and always will be.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes, shamed myself, and hurt people close to me, but by God’s grace I am alive again, still erring, but being sanctified one cell at a time.

So, if you’re reading this, and you don’t know me very well (which is almost everyone who will read this), or haven’t known me for awhile, I am both nothing new, and yet totally new, simultaneously. I am nothing new, in that I love my roots, in Middle Tennessee, small-town living, but I am totally new in that I wish to seek His face more than ever.

I’m married now and still in school. There are so many paths we could take, Linli and I, and we are doing our best to please Him first, and then our loved ones, friends, and neighbors. So, we’re off to Memphis in August, it seems, so that I might study at Harding School of Theology, to seek His truth in more depth, so that I might be more than fully equipped to live a life here or there, in the States or in China, to wherever He calls us.

Lord lead us and lead whoever finds themselves reading this. I pray for you, reader, to find peace wherever you are, in whatever life situation may find yourself.

May our lives serve His purposes, to the praise of His glorious grace, and may we also forgive others as we have also been forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Amen.