From the Office of Spiritual Life
As I have been studying Ecclesiastes for our Wise/Wounded series this semester, I have been struck by the call of the teacher to live fully in the gift of the present day. The teacher tells us that there is nothing that we can pursue – not pleasure, not hard work, not even wisdom – that can anchor us in life. God is the one who endures forever; humans and the human experience are finite and brief – a vapor. Our anchor of reality is deep in God, not in accomplishments, vacations, or even in “right living” and “right thinking.” God gives us the precious gift of life – to be experienced, enjoyed and realized as precious.
I know that there are moments for me when I really get this. I walk in the door of my house and see my husband and daughter and am filled with a knowing that life is precious. I sit at a table filled with friends and laughter and know that this moment is real and beautiful. Last summer the towering trees of the Redwoods and the blueness of Crater Lake struck me, and I was grateful to be alive to see such beauty and wonder. To see and experience and love and learn each day – these are gifts from the Creator. But I still struggle to think that somehow life will be more precious when __________ happens. Whatever the next goal is or project is to complete or issue is to figure out, that’s when life will be complete. But the teacher of Ecclesiastes speaks from his own experience in chapter two. There is no attainment that can make life any more precious than to enjoy the present moment and to live fully into today.
Most of us will only really learn this truth when we are faced with something that can take away the gift of life. We lose someone we love or we walk through the valley of the shadow with a friend. Crisis comes in one-way or another to our family. It is in these “houses of mourning” as the teacher calls them that the wise recognize the preciousness of life (Eccl. 7:2).
In early January our campus lost an administrator, Russ Devore, who left behind a wife and two Fox students. His presence is missed by our campus community and, of course, more so by his family. I know that many of our students face the grief of losing a grandparent, another family member, or lives being disrupted by divorce, job loss or other difficulties. As our Spiritual Life team prays with students, we are constantly reminded of the gift to be able to walk alongside and pray with each of these precious people.
Our Spiritual Life theme for 2010-2011 is Paradox. In the fall in chapel we identified some of the “both/and” truths of faith – the call of “doing/being,” the reality of making decisions in faith that is both “God’s plan/your choice,” and what it means to see God in both “bitter/sweet.” We heard from speakers such as Nathan Foster, Shauna Niequist, Efrem Smith and John Mark Comer. This semester we are continuing our Paradox theme through the lens of “wise/wounded.” Wisdom often deepens from the places in which we are wounded. In the scripture of Job, Jonah, Ecclesiastes and Psalms, we can see the embrace of pain and truth – the working out of the meaning of life in the midst of difficulty and change. In this teaching series, we embrace the paradox of being wise and wounded. How does suffering, doubt, pain and mistakes grow wisdom in us? Rusty St. Cyr, Steve Sherwood, Gregg Koskela, Sarah Jobson and I will be speaking on this significant topic from Scripture and in own relationships with Jesus. Students will also hear from Debby and David Thomas (missionaries from Rwanda), Grace Fabian from Wycliffe Bible Translators, Dwight Friesen from Mars Hill Graduate School, and Emmanuel Katongole from the Center of Reconciliation at Duke University, among others.
For a full chapel calendar, please go to spirituallife.georgefox.edu and see the incredible worship and teaching opportunities our students have. You can also watch chapel live or in podcast format as well. You can also learn of the many opportunities that students have to engage the world and the campus in Jesus.
Thank you for the way you pray for our campus, our students – your student(s) – the faculty and staff. This is a good place to become more and more anchored in relationship with Jesus.
Sarah Thomas Baldwin, University Pastor/Dean of Spiritual Life