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?

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”

Say It with Me: Cognitive Dissonance

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

“But they’re organic!”

Because we don’t have a Trader Joe’s near our house, whenever my wife can make a trip out to the closest one, she stocks up. I grew up on a steady diet of Crisco and high fructose corn syrup. So, when she introduced me to the reasonably-priced organic food store, I had a lot to learn. Joe-Joe’s, organic equivalent to Oreos, made the learning curve much easier.

They are not all that bad—as long as you haven’t had an Oreo in a while for comparison. And, did I mention they’re organic? Nutritious and delicious, right?

After polishing off the first box within a couple of days, my wife warned me to ease up. “But they’re organic!” My naivete must have been pitiful. “Organic doesn’t mean they are any less fattening,” she explained.

I compared the nutritional values of Joe-Joe’s with Oreos. Across the board, Joe-Joe’s had more sugar, more carbs, and more fat. As it turns out, self-control is just as important with organic products as it is with “the fake stuff.” What I thought would be a more waist-friendly option betrayed me.

I was crushed—crushed by cognitive dissonance.

Read more…

Teaching Big Ideas to Young Minds: Why?

Just the other day, I walked in on my students doing something amazing—they were discussing calculus. They were slinging terms left and right, talking quadratics and derivatives, differentiated and otherwise. I mean, I guess it was calculus. As if this dyslexic history major could tell either way.

It is the joy of teaching in a classroom following a calculus class. I take one look at the hieroglyphics that the previous teacher left on the board—I assume out of pride—and I just laugh. The students laugh at me laughing. It’s fun.

Then it’s my turn. I get to teach them Christology, soteriology, and anthropology. I teach ontology, epistemology, and cosmology. Sure, it may be Bible class and apologetics class, but far be it from me to ease up just because the topic turns spiritual. After all, they were just learning calculus!

My first year of teaching theology to high school freshmen, I remember looking over my syllabus with a fellow teacher. Scanning all the “-ologies”, he asked doubtfully, “Do you really think that freshman can handle this? Don’t you think this is over their heads?”

With an unbearably Will-Rogers-like smirk, I replied, “Maybe, but that just means they need to sit up taller.”

Why is it that we teach such big ideas and expect such deep thinking from our young people when it comes to so-called “secular” subjects, yet when it comes to the things of God, we are content to have them read a few verses and discuss a few practical applications?

We need to teach young people the big ideas about God our creator, the universe he created, and the image in which he created us—using the mind he created in us to use. That is to say, we need to teach young people theology.

Here are three reasons why. Continue reading “Teaching Big Ideas to Young Minds: Why?”

Say It with Me: Plausibility Structures

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

The term will probably not work its way into your casual conversation any time soon. However, it may play a part next time someone talks to you about your faith. It should play a part next time you talk to someone about yours.

Continue reading “Say It with Me: Plausibility Structures”

The Questions They’re Asking and the Answers They’re Getting

…and What We Should Do about It

Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

I have never been much of Star Wars fan (please don’t unsubscribe), so when my student hit me this quote in the middle of a conversation about morality, my reaction was little more than an eye-roll. Fortunately, I was able to convince him that Obi-Wan Kenobi may have been strong with the force, but he was weak with philosophy, especially considering that his statement was absolute.

Consequently, it was one of the best conversations I have ever had with a student about the nature of morality.

It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.

Now, Batman? I can appreciate Batman. So, when a student threw that one at me, I was a bit more receptive. As it turns out, much of the stress this student felt due to his underperformance in school was prompted more by fiction than fact.

As a result, it was one of the best conversations I have ever had with a student about identity and accountability.

In both situations, fictional characters had given these young people more answers to life’s big questions than any of the adults in their lives had. I was not surprised. If you are, you should know, this is typical.

Here’s the thing…

Our young people’s lives are more often than we would like to admit guided by the culture that surrounds them more than the adults that raise them.

So, what can we do about it?

We first need to recognize two facts: young people are asking questions, and they are getting answers. The question is, from whom are they getting those answers?

We then need to develop a strategy to answer their questions properly, meaningfully, and—most importantly—Biblically.    Continue reading “The Questions They’re Asking and the Answers They’re Getting”