Friday morning

Two announcements:

  • My dear friend Jenni (who I have known from a distance for several years and am delighted to be rooming with at The Glen in a week or so) has been working very hard on the Art House America site – and it’s finished, as of last night. So go read, gawk at the loveliness, and enjoy.
  • I’m delighted to be the faculty advisor for the newest women’s house at King’s, named for Corrie ten Boom. (You can read the announcement here from last spring.) I know several of the girls from my class last year, and I am very excited to be joining them as they embark on their first year, and to be able to engage in student life at King’s in my first year.

Things I am pondering:

  • The perennial question: M.F.A. or Ph.D., or both, and in which order? Do I need to study craft or history? Where, how, when? Do I need prerequisites? And how can I avoid paying for it? These things roll around in my head a lot, and they’ve come back lately in a kind of aggravated existential crisis. (What do you think?)
  • I asked this question of a number of teacher/writer friends in an email, but I’ll ask here, too: if you do both, how do you manage both? Do you schedule time for writing into your office time? Or is it haphazard?
  • Similarly, blogging friends: do you find that blogging takes away from or enhances your writing time? I used to say that blogging was exercising the writing muscle. Then I stopped blogging. And I think maybe I was right, but it’s hard to start again.
  • Jim Belcher’s book Deep Church, which, besides being incredibly engaging, compassionate, and reasoned, is also challenging, expanding, and clarifying my thinking in ways that few books have done of late (Jamie Smith‘s Desiring the Kingdom being one of those few). If you care about church and have been scurrying around the periphery of both relatively traditional evangelicalism and vaguely emergent churches for a while, like me, you can’t afford to skip this one. I promise: you haven’t read it before. And you’ll also enjoy it.
  • Speaking of Desiring the Kingdom, I’m struggling with how to develop thick practices in my students through teaching. I’m already committed to not setting deadlines for big assignments for Sunday night or Monday morning, because I know students, and many will not make Sunday into a day of rest if they know a project is due. I don’t want to teach them that behavior – it will burn them out. I’ve been there. I know. And I also plan to focus on Sabbath the week we also focus on poetry and description in my first-semester writing class this fall. But what else? I’m thinking about, for instance, Andi’s article on shelter and my own new (even if shared) office.

You know, just an average Friday morning.

7 thoughts on “Friday morning

  1. a, your question about blogging is a good one. i didn’t think i would start blogging again after closing up the blog i wrote for several years re: our exploits in the oakie house urban family commune. but then i accidentally began the daily office — mostly b/c i really needed to train my eyes to see/ears to hear something beautiful everyday. so i think if blogging can help you achieve some purpose in your overall living-life-fully, it is a worthwhile discipline. otherwise, sometimes the discipline of being still — and, in that, *not* blogging — is healthiest and best.

  2. Re: education degree. MFA in ? (my mom has it in but in fine art) I am guessing someone offers it for writing. The MFA is cheaper, faster, less expensive, a series of checkboxes. Why a PhD? to be tenured faculty? If so, then the difference is slower, much more costly. (PhD programs change faster than the students achieving them). The biggest challenge is not the comps or the volume of reading but the “creative” end of the dissertation: advisors are key to helping you get the diss. finished. (A doctorate in education is much easier to attain than a PhD in education)

  3. MFA in nonfiction. Ph.D. in religion, and in order to do the research and develop the thoughts in a structured environment under some good professors, for the most part – as well as being part of a scholarly community, which can happen in certain schools. (The creative part I can manage!)

  4. I’m afraid I don’t have much input on the MFA/PhD issue, as my experience is only with the PhD in the sciences. But I can say that one thing I loved about the PhD is its transformative nature. I have a masters “in course” in physics, just for doing the 18 hours of coursework, and I can say if I had stopped there I would not have really developed as a physicist.

  5. I think blogging is exercising the writing muscle. The problem for me comes when that’s all the writing I end up doing.

    I’m debating the MFA/PhD question too – though it’s moot for a while since I can’t remotely afford it. Once I can, though…we’ll see.

  6. There are a bit less than six degrees of separation between us, but it still feels rather random that I happened upon your comment “I’m struggling with how to develop thick practices in my students through teaching.” I was intrigued. Not having read “Desiring the Kingdom,” (DtK) I tried to Google-out the meaning. I hit upon a book review (by a M.L.Anderson)[] but I’d like to hear more about “thick practices” and what you’d like to see develop in your students. Anderson writes, quoting DtK, that thick habits are “rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations” and he writes that Smith “argues that the fundamentally non-cognitive, affective nature of humanity entails that the telos of love must be construed as a picture, otherwise it will not actually move us.” (I am sure I am going to break this down far too simply but the strategy I learned from my father is that it doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t put it into action; utility and action. I hope you will be patient with me. My brain is old but I want to know more.) Is thin to thick almost as head knowledge is to heart-driven? Is thin to thick almost as mental belief is to hear-felt faith?

    I home-schooled my youngest because I wanted her to yearn for God more than I wanted to push academics. Academics were still a duty and a desire so I searched for as many ways as possible to use project-based learning that was hands on and clear to her in value. Spiritually, I attempted to show how real God is. I wanted her to own it and desire Him for herself so I took that task on very purposefully. Am I right in understanding that Smith wasn’t simply talking about pursuit of God? That one must have a picture of the unseen, that drives the habit, in order to achieve the valued end, is that correct? I still operate as a lay (speech & debate) coach/instructor of home-schooled students, we walk a road of tournament stress that allows for some unique teaching opportunities. I get to teach many of them for six years so I have developed ideas about how to participate in their lives and make an impact.

    Do you think friends can also inspire one another to move toward thick habits?

  7. An update, friends: I basically have decided on the MFA. Stay tuned.

    Rebecca, your assessment of what thick/thin practices are is spot-on. I’d recommend the book (it’s extremely readable) if you’re interested in the topic, but you’re right as well that Smith isn’t simply talking about the pursuit of God, though I think he might argue that all we do has to do with that pursuit, and that it’s in fact when we start separating those two things that we might forget how much our practices shape us.

    And, completely, to the latter assertion.

    Basically, yes. 🙂

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