What’s a Student to Do?

COVID-19…social distancing…quarantine…

These are all words that we seldom, if ever, heard before a couple of weeks ago. Now we see and hear them several times a day. The fact is, we have never seen anything like this before. The spread of the Coronavirus is the type of event that will be in future editions of history textbooks.

We are going through a season when everyone’s pattern of life is being disrupted. Events cancelled, businesses closed, schedules trashed. We are having to find a different way to do just about everything.

Most adults have worked from home before, just not for this extended amount of time. It is unusual, but not entirely unfamiliar.

This is uncharted territory for most students. They have never done school from home. High school students are having to learn geometry with their teachers as a distance. College students are having to write papers with libraries closed. Even homeschoolers are now confined to home, no doubt more than they prefer.

So, with the world turned upside down, and everyone confined to their homes, what is a student to do?

Here’s the thing…

Many have pointed “blessings in disguise” that we can find if only we look. For students, this moment presents unique opportunities for growth. I would suggest three.

1. Read

With the extra time you have on your hands, tolle lege! Read a book…or several.

You may be one who thinks they hate reading. I understand. Reading is not easy, but it can be worth it. You probably just haven’t found a book written well enough or about a topic important enough to make it worth your effort. So, by all means, keep looking.

You may be one who loves to read. I understand. Reading is great, but it can also be a waste of time. You may not have found a book written well enough or a topic challenging enough to test your mind. So, by all means, keep looking.

During this quarantine, you have a unique opportunity. You can read, not just to earn a grade, but to learn a lesson. You know the difference! You can read, not just for enjoyment, but improvement. Not that the two are mutually exclusive.

Closed bookstores and libraries shouldn’t be problem. We live in the digital age! Load up Kindle on whatever device you prefer and dive in!

If expense is a concern, there are plenty of other options. You would be amazed at how much is available online for free. Amazon.com will let you “Look inside” and read part of a book, several chapters in some books. Then you will be able to decide if it is worth purchasing.

Depending on how old or popular a book is, not to mention copyrights, you may be able to find a PDF version to save to your preferred reading platform. The PDF section of my Kindle library is full of classics that I have found online for free.

One of my favorite tools is Hoopla, a platform for digital content from public libraries. The app can be downloaded on any device and offers access with only a library card number (which you can also get online if you don’t have one yet).

Suggestions? Of course! Here are several books for students that immediately come to my mind (affiliate links below):

(For more specific book recommendations, contact me on Instagram, Twitter, or in the comments section below.)

And if I could be so bold as to suggest one more book to read during this season of social distancing: the Bible. All sarcasm aside. I have already heard from several of my students that one of the blessings in disguise of what we are experiencing is that they have been able to spend more time in God’s Word.  

2. Observe

Students have a particularly unique opportunity during the quarantine to observe their parents as they never have. Many parents are being forced to work from home. So, now you have the chance to see them in action.

Generations ago, children observed their parents at work on a regular basis, whether it was on the family farm or a family-owned business. In fact, children often participated in the work. Then our country industrialized, and many parents began working away from home where children no longer could observe, much less participate.

Senator Ben Sasse describes it this way:  

“Today’s children are likely to conceive of work as one job, and yet less likely to work the same job as their parents—such as on a family farm or ranch or in the same trade—than ever before. They no longer see up close a broad range of their parents’ work struggles, and they do not daily observe their parents’ work ethic the way their great-grandparents did. Most kids’ hours are spent chiefly in age-segregated environments.”

I am not against industrialization, but I think our culture lost a lot when children lost the opportunity to see the work their parents put in day after day to provide for their families.

Well, guess what, in all the weirdness of this moment, you have regained that opportunity!

Take this time to observe your parents at work while at home. Ask them questions. What does their daily routine look like? What are the products and services they provide? What are their customers like? How many meetings do they attend? What is the most frustrating thing about their job? What is the most rewarding thing about their job?

When you get a front-row glimpse of what your parents’ work requires of them, you will more than likely get a whole new level of appreciation for them. You and your family will be all the better for it. And, who knows, maybe you will get some guidance toward your own vocation.

Take advantage of this blessing in disguise. You get to observe what your parents do to give you the life you enjoy. Watch and learn.

3. Build

The type of habits that make a person successful in life do not happen by accident. They are built.

What time did you wake up this morning? Or possibly, this afternoon? For many students, the morning is something that happens to them. However, you have an opportunity during this time at home to build patterns and habits into your life that will enable you to get up each morning and seize the day.

John C. Maxwell, author of dozens of books on leadership, says, “The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Your daily routine is simply the series of positive habits that builds you into the person you ought to be. In other words, building good habits builds you.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Well, guess what? You have time!

I would suggest that you focus on your morning. I have found personally, and in conversation with many others, that the day is often won or lost in the first couple of hours. At least the rhythm for the day is set by then.

You will be amazed at how a morning routine reduces your stress, clears your mind, and maximizes your energy.

I don’t know what your regular morning looks like. Perhaps, you already have a set routine. However, I would strongly recommend that at least three features be a part of your morning.

Solitude

Social media is great for many reasons, especially during this time of quarantine. However, it shouldn’t be the first thing you concern yourself with in the day. The first thing you set your eyes on each morning should not be a filtered and posed picture of someone else.

My advice would be to practice solitude by avoiding social media first thing in the morning. Instead, work more healthy habits into your morning.  

Prayer

Prayer offers so much more than the mindfulness practices that are so popular today. Prayer is more than meditation: it is communication with God. Prayer does more than focus your mind: it directs your heart. Prayer does more than bring clarity: it brings you into the presence of God to live your day by his grace and for his glory.

My advice would be to begin each day praying for your day, expressing your dependence on God for a good day.

Scripture

One of my favorite metaphors in the Bible is in James 1:22-25. James compares the Bible to a mirror. I would dare say most of us would not go through our day without looking at a mirror and doing something about the mess we see. It is infinitely more important that we look into God’s Word, the mirror of our lives, and put to practice what it teaches.

My advice would be to spend a substantial part of your morning reading the Bible and finding some command to obey, correction to make, truth to ponder, or promise to claim.

Each of these no doubt deserves a discussion/blog post by themselves. Nevertheless, they are worth the effort to work into your morning, as is building a morning routine in general. The best part is, because of the quarantine, you are currently able to build a morning routine without waking up that early! Talk about a blessing in disguise.

For many students, this quarantine will be an inconvenience of boredom instead of an opportunity for growth. They will spend more time admiring other people than examining themselves. It will be a time of amusement instead of a time for improvement.

Which will it be for you?

2019 Reading Review

open book apologetics worldviews

Last year, when I wrote about my reading journey through 2018, I did not know what to expect. I worried about coming across as braggy. I wondered at the anxiety that would come from broadcasting my yearly reading goal. However, I only wanted to encourage others to engage in one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity—reading.

The response was exactly what I had hoped for. In the weeks that followed, readers replied with questions about certain books. Others recommended books for my 2019 reading list. Through the year, many have shared parts of their own reading journey. It has been awesome!

The problem is, now my hands are tied! Apparently, when you let the world know what your plans are for the year, people expect a follow-up. Who knew?
So, here we are a year later. I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal of reading 60 books this year.

The following is a summation of my year in reading.

Continue reading “2019 Reading Review”

Say It with Me: Reductionism

This is the fourth installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.

Stephen Hawking died in March of 2018. He battled a disease for fifty-five years that should have taken his life in two. Dr. Hawking pushed the boundaries of human understanding while inspiring wonder in millions. Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees eulogized, “Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen our insights into gravity, space and time.”

Rarely does such an intriguing combination of intellect, personality, and circumstances intersect. A mind of that caliber and a life of that character has much to tell us about ourselves and the universe we inhabit.

As Dr. Hawking drew close to death, he shared his thoughts on the prospects of dying. Hawking believed that science had eliminated the notion of a personal creator, and he was outspoken in his belief. He believed that the universe was only the result of quantum fluctuations. He believed that humans are no more than biological machines. So, when commenting on death his worldview came through.

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.[1]

Despite the monumental life he lived, in the end, he was reduced to a computer whose components had failed. This world-changing mind was reduced to a failing machine. The man who changed how we view the world was reduced by his own worldview.

Stephen Hawking was so much more than his worldview allowed him to be.

Here’s the thing…

People are more than their worldviews often allow them to be. This is because their worldviews contain a fatal flaw known as reductionism. Continue reading “Say It with Me: Reductionism”

Why I love Superhero Stories

I love comic books. I love the storylines. I love the history behind the stories. I love the characters—most of them anyways. So, ever since the tidal wave of superhero movies flooded the past two decades, I have been all in.

Sure, there were superhero movies before the year 2000, but well-made movies were few and far between. It should also be said that not all comic book movies made since then are worth watching. (I’m still bitter about the 105 minutes I will never get back thanks to Green Lantern.) However, comic book movies have seen unprecedented success in recent years.

With the advent of believable CGI, brilliant casting, and skillful adaptation of classic storylines, long-time enthusiasts like myself have welcomed multitudes of new fans.

Furthermore, with box office records broken annually, it does not seem like the flood will be receding any time soon. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed over $18 billion with solid production plans well into the 2020s. Superhero movies are a dominant presence on the list of the highest-earning movie franchises of all time.

With that many movies, making that much money, over that amount of time, there must be something that makes them that popular with that many people. I believe there are several themes common among superhero movies that connect to the heart of the human experience. 

Here’s the thing…

I love superhero stories, and you probably do too.

Here are three reasons why: Continue reading “Why I love Superhero Stories”

Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)

As a Christian parent, are you concerned that your children have doubts about the faith you are passing on to them? As a youth pastor or minister, are you troubled by the apathy so many of the kids in your youth group show toward spiritual things? As a Christian educator, are you worried that you are out of your depth with the questions your students have about the Christian worldview?

Being all three, I can relate. The fact is that the generation currently coming of age, Generation Z as they are called, are living a profoundly different adolescence than even the most recent generation before them. So, how do we Christian parents, pastors, and teachers help them stay grounded in the faith and thrive in the culture?

Here’s the thing…

Thankfully, we have some help.

In their newest book, So the Next Generation Will Know (set to release May 1), renowned Christian apologists Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace offer a guide to engaging what is quickly becoming the largest and most secularized generation. Continue reading “Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)”

Mending the Secular/Sacred Split

Many Christians find themselves living in two separate worlds, one on Sunday and the other the rest of the week.

They may see their faith as an add-on that merely supplements their daily routine. The effect that being a Christian has on their lives is limited to nominal traditions and comfort in times of crisis. They do not see their Christianity as having any implications on their jobs outside of being an upright, honest, hard-working, gospel witness while doing it.

On the other hand, they may see their faith as being somehow beyond their day-to-day. Worshiping God is something done in a Sunday service. Serving God is something done in organized church ministry. They see their jobs as John Beckett describes “a second-class endeavor—necessary to put bread on the table, but somehow less noble than more sacred pursuits like being a minister or a missionary.”[1]

In other words, they have bought into the secular/sacred split, dividing all of life into a two-story house that Francis Schaeffer described decades ago. They have relegated “real world” issues and “everyday” life downstairs along with all things secular. They have confined their Christianity upstairs, as it were, with personal preference, subjective values, and everything else sacred.

But, this is a huge departure from the Christian life as prescribed in the Bible, doing everything in Jesus’ name (Colossians 3:17) and to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)

So, here’s the thing…

We need to mend the secular/sacred split. Continue reading “Mending the Secular/Sacred Split”

Thinking about 2019

What does the year 2019 have in store for us? What does the gospel of Christ have for 2019?

If there is one thing that 2018 taught us, it is that none one knows what a year may bring.

Yet, our culture would have us believe that it offers an abundance of solutions to bring clarity to the mystery, direction to the confusion.

The next smartphone will solve all your problems. A quick internet search will provide you with all the answers. This new app will connect you to the world and possibly your soulmate. Buy this, live here, go there, be like them…and you will be happy. If that does not work, drink this, take those, and stream that until you forget about it all.

Christian author Trevin Wax calls these the myths of our culture. These myths are essentially lies that we believe because they appeal to our deepest longings. Every day, it seems like we are barraged by countless myths each more believable than the one before.

When confronted by the culture at large, we Christians—especially in America—feel overwhelmed by the constant fluctuation. We know there is solid ground in the truth of God’s Word. However, it seems like we are daily challenged by some new idea or trend even further removed from a Biblical understanding of the world than the previous one.

Christians often oscillate as much as the culture does. Some reject as much of the culture as possible with little regard for the people the fail to reach. Others accept as much of the culture as possible with little regard for the truth they fail to affirm. Meanwhile, our responsibility to be salt and light to the culture is largely neglected.

As Wax writes,

When we feel uncertain and confused about our rapidly changing society, we lack confidence in the gospel and in the power of the church. Many of us wonder: Are we truly up to the task of being faithful in this time?

So, what does it mean to be faithful in this time?

Continue reading “Thinking about 2019”