Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Over the river and through the woods

…with no place to go

Campus is pretty quiet this day before Thanksgiving. Depending on class schedules, the student exodus began Monday evening, reaching a crescendo Tuesday afternoon. Campus is like a ghost town today.

A few students remain on campus for the extended holiday weekend – residence hall staff, athletes, international and out-of-state students. 

I learned this morning that an alumna has made a tradition of fixing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for those who are not able to be with family – including Bluffton students. Word is that in previous years you have prepared turkey for 40-some people, with others bringing in side dishes to share.

What a special gift you are sharing. What a lesson you are teaching your children. What a way to serve your community.

Thank you

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A dangerous place

Guest post by Dr. Randy Keeler, associate professor of religion

Dr. Randy Keeler
What keeps you going to Israel/Palestine again and again?

I get asked this question often as I head to Israel/Palestine once again in May 2013 with a student group, and then look forward to leading an Alumni and Friends of the University group from Dec. 26, 2014-Jan. 7, 2015. Frankly, my initial response to this question is, “Why wouldn't I?”  I then want to ask, “Who wouldn't want to go?”

My primary initial interest in going to the Holy Lands was sparked by my Christian faith. I wanted to see where Jesus had walked and also where the biblical stories occurred. At the time of my first trip there (1993) I was the campus pastor here at Bluffton and I figured it would enrich my speaking to and interaction with students.

Being able to make connections to the biblical stories has proved invaluable. To see the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of his time in ministry adds perspective to any and all of the stories that are referenced as being from there.

To spend time in Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem helps me to envision Jesus’ life from his birth until his death. Even 2,000 years later, with all the modernization and commercialism of that region, one can still gain a sense of “what it must have been like.” I never tire of visiting the Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem), the Church of the Annunciation (Nazareth) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem). In some way, each time I am in those places it feels as if I am meeting Jesus for the first time again.

Understanding the Jewish experience has been a significant outcome of my visits as well. Seeing modern Israel, visiting Yad Veshem (Israel’s holocaust museum), and climbing up to Masada where the Jewish resistance in the late 7th decade of the first century took place, helps me to appreciate what the Jewish people have had to persevere through over the years as a people. Of course, it’s always fun to float in the Dead Sea, and even though I do not always do it when I visit, it is always fun to watch others experience it for the first time!

But perhaps the most endearing experience of the trip for me is visiting our Palestinian brothers and sisters I have had the privilege of making friends with on my various trips. Getting to know the struggles of the Palestinian people has given me a new perspective on the political situation in the region and helped me to have a more informed perspective on the Palestinian history and culture. The Palestinian people are the “living stones” in that region faithfully following Christ in the midst of very difficult conditions.

But, you may ask, “Is it dangerous?” I've been asked that question often also, but the best way I know of answering that question is to say the following:  I've never felt myself in any physical danger, but I am always in danger of changing my worldview when I go. So, in that sense, perhaps it is dangerous for me. Every time I go, my views of the world get expanded a bit more. I like, or should I say need, that kind of danger.

As long as I am able and have the opportunity I will continue to go back, and each time I go back I experience something new.

Randy will share more about his previous trips to Israel/Palestine and answer questions about the alumni tour during an information meeting Dec. 2 on campus and online.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A welcome reprieve

Dameer Relford tickles the ivories in Mosiman Hall. 
About a month ago, I was asked to take an action photo of one of Bluffon’s music students. As he was a pianist, I asked him to play something. He had no music. No warning this request was coming. But Oh My Word - the sound that filled Gilliom Room. I’ll admit to taking a few more photos than were needed just so he wouldn’t stop playing.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to watch the Bluffton volleyball team play in the HCAC tournament finals. It was so amazing to watch the teamwork, the individual effort, the encouragement when things went awry and the celebration for a job done well.

Isn’t it curious how live performances – whether it’s theatre, music or athletics – whether it’s a formal event or an impromptu performance – tends to draw people together?

For a while we are transported to another place, away from the stuff that’s going on in our lives. We get a reprieve from the dirty dishes, the bills, the empty gas tank, the too-long to-do list and become part of this magical shared experience.

People who take their seat as individuals collectively become the audience. And the audience breaks into spontaneous laughter, applause, smiles, cheers.

Then when it’s over and the audience again becomes a group of individuals, burdens are somewhat lighter for having shared the experience as an audience participating in a performance.

Holiday opportunities on campus:

  • Gospel Choir fall concert, 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, Yoder
  • Concert Band: “A Holiday Celebration,” 7:30 p.m., Nov. 25, Yoder 
  • Nine Lessons and Carols Christmas Concert, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 3, Yoder - tickets required
  • Handel’s Messiah, 4 p.m., Dec. 8, Founders
  • Women’s basketball, Bluffton Holiday Tournament, Dec. 28-29, Sommer
  • Men’s basketball, McDonald’s Holiday Tournament, Dec. 29-30, Sommer

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A new generation

Mom (or Dad) rocks a sweet newborn baby, humming the Alma Mater as a lullaby, “Bluffton College, How we love thee. Ever true to thee we’ll be…

While I personally chose a different lullaby, my infant son often sported the little Bluffton t-shirt sent by the alumni office when he was born. (As determining the correct t-shirt size became problematic, newborn children of alumni now receive a stuffed animal - a Beaver, of course.)

There are many opportunities to introduce your children and grandchildren to Bluffton University.

Alumni are welcome - even encouraged - to bring children to May Day. For the past several years, brightly colored blankets have been laid on the ground around the May Pole, with children invited to enjoy the best seats for watching the May Pole Dance. And just last year, a Toddler Trot and Half-Mile Family Fun Run was added to the May Day Four-Mile Run/Walk.

The Riley Creek Festival is an annual celebration of spring, organized by several student organizations, with many activities for children, including the Rubber Duck Race down the Riley, face-paintings, inflatables, crafts and more.

The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton University is all about children. It is a favorite destination for school field trips to learn about peace and cross-cultural understanding. It’s also a library where children, parents and teachers can check out books and other resources.

You have done much to introduce your child to Bluffton. Bluffton wants to thank you by offering an Alumni Grant to all new students who are children or grandchildren of alumni, beginning in fall 2014.

"...Loyalty and deep devotion, Joyously we offer thee."