Wholehearted (A Final Rolling Stones Post)

The third and final installment of a three part series (“Honing Our Chops”) that first appeared at Faith ON Campus:

[I recently finished Life by Keith Richards, lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. When most people think of the Stones they probably think of Mick Jagger first (no thanks to Keisha and Maroon 5). But Keith has really been the leader, glue, and engine for the band that turns 50 this year. I found a lot of what Keith writes about in Life to speak into my vocation as a Campus Minister. These are my reflections on Keith’s insights.]

“We just wanted to be a great blues band. That’s all we played [the blues], until we actually became it.” from Life, p. 158.

One of the themes that becomes very clear, very quickly, when reading Life by Keith Richards is that the Rolling Stones never set out to be an epic, culture changing rock n’ roll band. They were deeply influenced by the Chicago blues (Muddy Waters, etc), and that is, in many ways, how they still view themselves to this day: a Chicago blues band from London.

Not that they didn’t have ambition. They wanted to be a great band. But they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

When students show up on campus as freshmen there are some who just want to party, and a few others who are there to get a degree and get on with it, but the majority of students come with significant dreams and aspirations.

They may not say this to the first people they meet at school, but they come wanting, believing, even knowing, that they can, and will, change the world.

But then life happens, disappointments accumulate, frustrations with classes and professors set in, and some of the gleam and shine of college begins to fade.

There is a kind of lostness that many students wander through around the mid-way point of their college experience. Should I stay in this major? Should I transfer schools? Is this really worth all the money and debt?

I believe students wind up in this place for two reasons:

  1. They lack a specific vision for their life (I want to change the world sounds nice, but it is far too vague to sustain anyone for a long period of time).
  2. They have been taught to hold back

I picked up Life because, of course, I wanted to hear some incredible stories about the greatest rock band of all time. But I was also interested because this is the 50th anniversary of the band (a band that still includes 3 of the 5 originals and a fourth who has been around for almost 40 years). How do you stay in the game, let alone on top of the game, for that long? 50 years is an impressive marriage.

I think the two big reasons the Stones are celebrating a 50th anniversary are that they had a specific vision (to be the best blues band in London), and they did not hold back.

There are several scenes in the life of Jesus where he lets people in on the secret: this thing is headed to the cross…my mission is to be broken and poured out for you. Almost every time he says this someone tells him no, that’s a bad idea (see John 6 or Matthew 16).

Martin Buber speaks of taking either a “yes” or “no” position to life. Jesus was saying an emphatic yes to his vision, and he was not going to let some “no” position folks hold him back.

Campus ministers must help their students navigate the college experience with wisdom and sagacity. But, hopefully, not at the expense of taking a “yes” position in relation to our students.

Certainly they get plenty of the “no” position from many other sources.

One more Stones story. For the first four years of their existence the Stones were playing a gig or recording a song for all but 2 days of that period. Now certainly working everyday for four years is not healthy. But, here’s the really interesting thing: very little of what they played and produced during this time was original material. Most of their big original work took place in the ten years after this.

It’s almost as if those four years were their university years. And they threw themselves fully into this time: learning songs, learning how to play together, learning how captivate an audience, learning a sound, learning everything they’d need to know later on down the road (when they really did change the world).

A campus minister has the opportunity to guide students to a posture of “yes”. To help students find their “chicago blues” and to throw themselves fully into life.

The chops of wholeheartedness.

Summer with Sojourn

We just wrapped up a 10 week summer experience called “DIG”. We had about 20 students on average (a big week being 25, small about 15), and we had some amazing conversations about integration, virtue, stories, and faith in practice. Also, I was encouraged to see students get more involved at church in various capacities (kids, set up and tear down, etc). We’ve never done something quite like this before…definite win!

Wendell Berry on the University

Thanks to Tim Hawkins for passing this along:

“The university thought of itself as a place of freedom for thought and study and experimentation, and maybe it was, in a way. But it was an island too, a floating or a flying island. It was preparing people from the world of the past for the world of the future, and what was missing was the world of the present, where every body was living its small, short, surprising, miserable, wonderful, blessed, damaged, only life.” – From Jaber Crow

The Radar Is On

A repost of the second article I wrote published by Faith on Campus. “Honing Our Chops, Part II: Radar.”

[I recently finished Life by Keith Richards, lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. When most people think of the Stones they probably think of Mick Jagger first (no thanks to Keisha and Maroon 5). But Keith has really been the leader, glue, and engine for the band that turns 50 this year. I found a lot of what Keith writes about in Life to speak into my vocation as a Campus Minister. These are my reflections on Keith’s insights.]

“The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You’re constantly on the alert…You start looking around, and everything’s a subject for a song.” from Life, p. 183

At the heart of Christian theology lies the idea that God is one. And if God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), then the implications are astounding, with, perhaps, the largest being (to borrow a phrase from Richard Rohr) that “everything belongs”.

Many of us live with a bifurcated (or muti-furcated…just made up a word) world. College students are bombarded with this constantly. Whether it be sacred vs. secular, personal vs. public, on-line vs real-life, dualism abounds.

In their excellent little book, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness (a great discussion starter), Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby write: “Our academic work is generally a study of pieces, fragments of the whole. Our apprehension of reality is splintered into a million fragments. Sometimes advanced education makes reality feel event more fragmented.”

Students, I have found, don’t even realize what has happened. It’s just the waters we all swim in.

But, fragmentation is not how God intended us to experience the world. God is one. And this one God created the world, and all things are his, and he called the whole thing good. Shalom is how the story begins and it is how the story ends

And so the campus minister must live with the radar on. We must be students of all of life. We need to become masters at pointing things out: Have you ever noticed? What about this? Did you know? Why is this thing so humming with life? Look at how these things connect!

To paraphrase Keith: “You start looking around, and everything’s a subject.”

A couple of practical thoughts:

  1. Read a lot. Read a lot of different things. Read things you know nothing about. When you come across something interesting share it with your students and how you see it connecting to the larger story.
  2. Have hobbies and interests (and relationships) outside of your ministry world. There are people in my life that teach me more about campus ministry than any book, or conference, or blog who are a million miles removed from the university bubble.
  3. Integrate. Write it down. Keep a notebook. Underline stuff. File articles. Blog. Do whatever it takes to begin putting what you learn together.

And most importantly, model this for your students. There is something wonderful about sitting down with a student and helping them see how their humanities class connects to broader ideas of justice, which connects to a deep desire to see things put back together (Shalom restored), which connects back to a good God who is one.

But there is something even more wonderful about watching a student transform from a biology major to a life major. That moment when a student says: “Hey, what about this…check out this connection.”

Annie Dillard writes in To Teach a Stone to Talk: “We are here to witness. That is why I take walks: to keep an eye on things.”

Keep the radar on. Study the world around you. Keep your eyes open. Teach your students how to pay attention.

Develop your radar chops.

Globalscope, Board Meetings, and Staycations

Awesome, but busy, week last week. Hanging out with the globalscope crew was inspiring and fun, a good reminder why I love campus ministry. They are doing some amazing work in Germany, England, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Thailand, and soon in Scotland. I also had the opportunity to lead one of their breakout workshops on the storytelling curriculum we’ve been using and developing here, another good time with good feedback and questions

Saturday we crammed two days worth of board meetings in to one. A full, but encouraging, day. I really appreciate these folks and they had some solid, challenging things to teach us, to ask us, and to guide us towards.

This week I am taking some time off to complete the transformation of our home, and hopefully get us physically ready for this baby to come. I have a big list, and I am excited to knock it out!

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