NON 312: Final Integrative Paper
God calls us to specific activities. One of those is choosing good patterns of living.  I chose to apply for Elijah Project, which seemed at the time to be a step towards good patterns of living. It undeniably has been. In the woods of reality, God plays a flute—the tune is the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. I am drawn to this tune, and Elijah Project has promised familiarity with it. I came in thirsting for deeper life, like an addict longing for the life of a mystic.  After nearly a year in the program, I have received tools and experiences which will become faithful partners in my journey through life.  Much of what I learned focused on calling and discernment of my own calling. My current vocational leaning is reconciliation.
I have structured my paper into four explanations related to my calling. First, people are doing reconciliation between people groups. This happens on many different levels. One of those levels is between nations. Second, reconciliatory work fits well into the kingdom of light. However, when coercion is made into a principle for reconciliation, our reconciliation ship raises a flag of the kingdom of darkness. Third, I will explain what causes me to lean towards reconciliation. I find God’s call to me in my talents  , stations  , and life experiences. Finally, I will describe a fitting response  to this vocation, including short term and long term plans.
State of Reconciliation
I feel called to a subdiscipline of peace and reconciliation—conflict between groups which stems from failure to properly understand something about another. My interest in this focus comes from my interest in where the “world of meaning” overlaps with the “social world.”  I conceive of misinformation disputes as those which arise out of occasions where one group believes something untrue about another. Often, this forms tension between the two. For instance, if a group of white people believe black people don’t take, as YouTube vlogger Frederick Wilson calls it, “responsi-damn-bility”  for their actions, the white group will likely develop disgust towards the black group. Another type of conflict finds root in lack of understanding, as opposed to misunderstanding. Lack of understanding can cause conflict when one group is unaware of a social reality important to interacting sensitively with another group. Bernard Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives give us a framework for putting language to a one group not realizing something that exists. We could say that a white group, unaware of the reality of white privelage, has not exercised the transcendental imperative of intelligence in great enough measure.  In fact, before I knew about white privilege, I understood scholarships for persons of minority to be reverse racism, which stirred anger in me towards people of color. It is this type of anger that festers, then causes conflict to break out between groups of people.
Many organizations are doing reconciliatory work. On an international level, the UN stands out as a main entity working in this concern. The UN is currently aiding Iraq in reconciliation.  In the last 10 months, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, performed a wide array of restorative activities. They allowed refugees moved out by the conflict to attend schools local to their displacement camps. Bringing refugees into school manifests a periphery response to conflict. It does not solve the misunderstanding between the Iraqis and the group they are in conflict with, but it shows a necessary aspect of response to this type of conflict—healing  those who hurt in response to a conflict. UNAMI urged militant groups to engage in dialogue with government. This is a more direct response, addressing the source of conflict, the flame of the pot that is boiling over.
The UN could be doing more to help Iraq restore friendly relations between people groups; particularly, they could be creating magnet-like responses to conflicts between ethnic groups. Magnets pull attractive metals to themselves until the two objects are face to face. In this analogy, the UN is the magnet, and national leaders are metals being attracted by the UN. The UN could gather officials from conflict-involved regions to discuss the issues at hand. When people interact face to face on various issues, their consideration for the other people affected by this decision increases.
Reconciliation As a Christian
As a follower of Christ  , I want to honestly call myself a “co-worker with the Spirit of Christ”  , so I need to make sure reconciliation fits within the true  story  of a reformational worldview. If it does fit, I need to understand what principles ought to guide the reconciliation I do. Wolters gives us guidance  for determing what sort of principles activities must be governed by in order to align with God’s character, if they even fit at all. When analyzing, he draws attention to the importance of how questions are phrased. Rather than asking, “what in this activity is good and bad?” he suggests, “what in this is structural, and what in this is directional?” Applying that to my situation—what in reconciliation is structural, and what is directional? One way to answer these questions is by considering what in reconciliation is creational, what in it is fallen, and what, if any of it, is redeemed? In the garden of Eden, we see God responding to Adam and Eve’s disobedience with questions. This evinces his effort to push back towards them with the goal of connection.  This is our earliest evidence of God’s reconciliatory action. This story is one way to know reconciliation is an activity God performs. Furthermore, this is an action he does which we are to mimic.  The act of reconciling is in our creational nature.
Fallen reconciliation, however, is characterized by groups threatening others’ physical wellbeing in order to bring about friendly relations between people. If someone is trying to force friendly relations into being, people will be kept from flourishing. For example, if I threaten two conflicted people into grabbing a meal together at Buffalo Wild Wings, that is a fallen form of reconciliation. Sanctifying this bullying form of reconciliation involves conforming it to God’s character.  Redeemed reconciliation is characterized by respect for others’ free choice.
As a follower of Christ, I will enact God’s character  by enacting reconciliation, so long as it follows the principle of non-violent persuasion. As for restoring harmony, I can now determine where a fault line between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness lies within reconciliation. The kingdom of darkness wins when a group exterior to the conflict attempts to solve it without first consoling the group who they are helping. This unconsoled help is a win for the kingdom of darkness because the group being helped loses their opportunity to develop a solution—the disadvantaged group becomes dependent on the other group. Although there is need for us to realize our dependence on one another  , there is also need for groups of people to gain skills with which they can provide for themselves—teach a man to fish, and he is fed for a lifetime.
In the case of the Iraqis, if UNAMI did not consult with the Iraqis about what sort of help they want, their dignity would be decreased. Implicit in UNAMI’s hypothetically unconsulted work would be the message, “You do not have anything we need. We have your answers, simply let us do the work. We’ll take care of you, because you can’t take care of yourselves” If UNAMI leads with that attitude, they are being led by demonic forces too prideful to realize the necessity of interdependence. Au contraire, Partners in Development, Inc.’s (PID) actual activity is ruled by the kingdom of light. When it came to the conflict I witnessed in MS over the summer, where the black people inside the town avoid the white people outside the town, and the white people have disdainful attitudes towards the black people. PID began with empowering questions posed to the townspeople, “What sort of things do you want to get done? Do you want our help here?” That’s a much more strongly partnership oriented type of teamwork. God smiles upon helping people groups characterized by this dignifying approach.
Now I will switch from a focus on reconcilement as it stands, including how it stands in God’s eyes, to a movement detailing my fitting response  to the problems that inspire this activity.
I Have Discerned My Call By Reflecting On My Worldview and Experiences
I feel called to do work that helps bring peace between conflicting groups; part of the way I have discerned that call is by examining past experiences which show me competencies  of mine required for reconciliation. In middle school, I spent time with my youth pastor learning how to code computer applications. My ability to pay great attention to detail helped me do this with success. Because reconciliation is touchy work, it requires great attention to detail. Senior year of high school, through shadowing a computer software engineer and working as a Pick Your Own (PYO) attendant at an orchard, I realized I would thrive if a significant portion of my work focused on people intellectually.  Sitting at a computer most of the day alone, programming a dialysis machine is important, but I became tired by its distance from people.
Senior year, I edited a few videos which won acclaim from my church, peers, and professors. In the course of creating these videos, I spent many hours alone, fine-tuning the stitching together of shots, which involved cutting out single frames in order to yield smoother transitions between cuts. A major distinction between the computer programming and the computer editing was the subject—people. The subject of the dialysis programming was indirectly people—for they would be the users of this software, and benefactors of the machine’s function, but the intellectual focus of the programming is on the function of the machine, not on the function of people socially, which my PYO job allowed for (though it was not terribly intellectual or at all academic, the foci of my problems were still peoples’ social function. I exhibit more excitement and drive when doing work that can influence other peoples’ abilities to understand concepts that in turn affect their choices. In the same vein, I am talented at reconciliation in part because its intellectual meat and potatoes is people. Medicine has peoples’ thoughts and behaviors as indirect subjects, with their bodies being the direct subjects, while peoples’ thoughts and behaviors are reconciliation’s direct subject.
My signature themes could help me reconcile conflicts between groups of people.  Learner, my top cluster of talents, contains my talent of loving the process of learning. This relates to reconciliation, because in reconciliation I will need to learn much about the groups of people on either side of the conflict. I did this this past semester with the homosexuality topic on campus. My church, The Harbor, served as a nebulus where I entered the orbit of people with claims on the nonaffirming perspective as true. I mildly entered relationship with people in the LGBT community at Gordon, and entered deeper relationship with Bryan. Furthermore, I went to The Reformation Project conference for a few days at the end of October. My love for learning drove me to develop relationships in both of these arenas. In the same way, I could develop relationships in the future between myself and groups who are in conflict, and then learn from those relationships what the attitudes are, and then try to discern problems that lie between the two groups.
Restoration is another cluster of my talents; when combined with my Achiever set of talents, an invisible drive to do work that will bring people together. Restorative is distinguished by a love for solving problems, especially problems that are causing harm to the functionality of a group of people, such as a business that has crumbled to its knees, or in my case, a situation like the one at Gordon. “It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factor(s), eradicate them, and restore something to its true glory.”  Achiever is distinguished by the intense drive I can develop to accomplish something. Combined with my love for learning and love for problem-solving, I find myself almost compulsively researching problems and their solutions, staying up into the night gathering information or pushing out other duties in order to make time for this process. This invisible force gives me the endurance I need to stand in the face of problems for long periods of time when needed- such as my presence at the conference, where consideration of these issues was a three day, 24 hour per day endeavor.
Recently I have found myself hooked on swing dancing, and have exercised these three talents in the service of this concern—in the same way I have exercised these three talents in service of reconciliation. The other night, I stayed up reading about swing dancing, trying to find the solution to a problem I discovered while dancing at MIT. I sacrificed work on my other tasks (in this example, reading for a class the next morning) in order to learn about this problem. In a similar way, there have been moments when I pushed aside other duties in order to learn about both arguments for sexuality. For better and for worse, my talents have resulted in me at times letting some of the things I said that I would do to fall to the way side, and get less attention than they deserve. In order to go to the Reformation Project Conference, I missed classes and contributed less to the Challenges and Opportunities rough draft.
Because of my talents, I have a tendency towards overcommitment, which spills over into harming my reconciliatory work. Restorative gets me interested in working through a problem. Learner gets me learning about that problem, and Achiever gets me working hard on everything in this process. The problem happens when I let myself get involved with too many concerns. This weakness has harmed my reconciliatory work of drawing together people of opposing viewpoints on sexuality. Because of my interest in many problems, I have become overcommitted, and as a result have had more pressure against me to make time to thoroughly respond to the responses I received on my blog.
The weaknesses of becoming overcommitted can be ground out of me by developing my talents into strengths. If I zero in on a smaller number of concerns, I should be able to act on each more excellently.  My drive to learn pulls me towards many events, but if I narrow my focus to a specific topic or two topics, then I can more effectively address those, without leaving myself as dissapointed at the end. StrengthsQuest warns Learners of learning plataeus, and encourages them to “keep the mentality that you are never done learning.”  With this in mind, as well as with less commitments, I may have put more effort into reconciliation this past semester. I notice a point in the semester where I stopped putting a major focus of my effort into learning about the sexuality debate and transitioned my focus to learning about writing. I feel that a weak point of my in my addressing the sexuality issue was a lack of forming a response  , because I spent so much time in the intelligence and rationality realms. Achiever could have helped me with this. Part of the reason I feel called to reconciliation is because my talents lie with that activity.
Thanks to God’s hidden will  , reconciliation is not out of his will; thanks to God’s revealed will, this is moral, and I have not been praying to discern if this is his will. I know it is because of these two factors, but I have been praying to discern if this is a good decision, and I can hear his voice guiding me towards this work. His voice is encouraging, as it tells me to be proud of this vocational leaning. If I decided to not do this work, at the moment he may approve, because this seems like a fiting path forward. I would need good reason at this point in order to choose something else. I have thought the most about going into reconciliation and medicine, and reconciliation is the better option. It’s like a glove that fits better, because I get to have the intellectual focus of my job be primarily on sociological and interpersonal topics. He also might disapprove of me changing my mind, but I would ask him why, and he would likely tell me. Sometimes my ear isn’t quite tuned to the right station though  , and I hear something that does not sound like his voice, and this is where the critical importance of figuring something like this out in community comes into play.
I have brought this word from God, that doing reconciliation is a good response, to my community, and there have discerned whether or not it is God’s voice, and furthermore, my community has helped me wisely consider decisions. At Buffalo Wild Wings I told Jesse Harris, under my breath, with a lack of pride, about my leaning towards reconciliation. He said that’s great. Later I told him one way I was considering responding to this problem was through accepting Kevin Neil’s offer to join the leadership team for the forming Gay Straight Fellowship. Jesse On the couch in Dexter’s living room, Zoey told me reconciliation sounds great as well. During OktoberFest behind Ferrin, Bri-Larson Jackson told me she thought sociology was a better fit for me than because I do sociology all the time anyway. My uncle finds this interest of mine a lofty, ambitious goal, typical of my young age and vigor. Praise him for revealing his character so deeply through Scripture, and for giving us so much freedom to make choices. Otherwise life would not be as great a joy. “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  In this verse we see freedom given to us to make decisions, as well as walking in intimacy with God, which is direly important to following Christ well.  I interpret devotions in solitude  as part of what it means to walk humbly with your God. Without solitude, I would have only empty words to engage my community with.
I have had reconciliatory mentors who put current flesh to part of what I imagine my future self to be.  Jesse Torres, my boss, mentor, and Resident Director of Fulton last year, did reconciliation on a small, college community level. He would invite people upsetting the peace into his office for conversations, and I got to talk with him about how he had these conversations—silence was one important, awkward aspect of it! Furthermore, I had the opportunity to navigate a conflict between roommates on my floor, and he walked me through each step of it. He gave me a three step process for navigating the conflict, and we talked before and after each major interaction I had with these two guys on my floor. As difficult as this experience was, it is one of my favorite memories from RA-ing. Though the conflict was not resolved by the roommates finding a solution where they could happily together for the rest of the year (one of the roommates moved out of the room near the end of first semester), a solution was reached. What showed my strengths in this situation was my relationships with both parties where I came to understand them, helped them see things from the other side a bit, and asked them if they had mentioned anything about whatever complaint it was they were telling me to their roommate. Jesse stepped me through this process. I handled it well, which is indebted to his example, my talents, and God’s grace.
I don’t know whether I would be more skilled at focusing more on organizational work, work that is face to face with people, or research, creating new knowledge. I wonder if there is some intersection between these three. I could do research on the organizational aspects of face to face work.
I am afraid to pursue race or sexuality reconciliation because it feels like something which is distant to me, and I doubt others’ would recommend that I be the one doing the reconciliation—not placed much in my life circumstances, and therefore I have little insight on the topic, and I feel afraid to do work here, because I feel that I have little authority to speak here as a white male (see fig. 3).
Fig. 3. Causes of my fear of moving into reconciliatory work with full gusto
I feel like people will not take my work here into deep consideration because they’ll write me off as a white male, and not only that, but also, I am not eloquent naturally. I can be with practice, but it is not a talent of mine. I feel as if I need to be eloquent in order for people to value my opinion, and in order to be heard. I don’t need to be eloquent to listen though, and there is deep need for that. I have a strong voice through writing.  Listening is very important for doing excellent research. So, I can deal with these issues, but I do not think public speaking is my calling here, because it falls outside of my region of talent and life circumstance. If I had grown up with this issue I would likely have greater ability to speak eloquently about social issues. I have only known about white privelage this past year, where as for others, even other white males, they grown up in more diverse contexts than I have, which has formed them into people with deeper intuitive insight into those issues than I have. I don’t always have the keenest on the spot reactions to face to face problems. During the roommate reconciliation there was a loud verbal fight between the two guys, and I didn’t have the natural ability to What I do have to offer in those sectors though is the perspective of someone who grew up without awareness of those issues. That is valuable because it helps understand a subset of the people who whatever work is oriented towards that have similar situations to me in that regard of little exposure to racial, gender, or sexual issues.
I just described why I feel called to reconciliation, now I’m going to describe what I could do now and in the future as a response to the world’s need for this work.
I Can Reconcile
I could be a pawn in pushing back the kingdom of darkness with conflicts regarding Iraq and ISIL. Imagine the following, which could be my story. Yesterday evening I came into discussion with an Iraqi, Muhammad, with the aide of my translator. Asking him what he thought of ISIL, Muhammad told me that they were terrorists who made terrible choices in deciding to become part of that organization. In his story I sensed a lack of understanding of the small degree of choice people have when they grow up in a social group that idealizes all ISIL holds true.  I asked him if he wanted to grab coffee together at some point over the next few days.  He agreed, we exchanged phone numbers, and this gives me a few days to prepare a response which will raise his awareness of these issues. He seemed interesting in discussing ISIL further. I hope this will bring to his heart a sense of sympathy for many of the ISIL soldiers.
Returning to a non-hypothetical situation, I will sketch a portrait of  a few options for reuniting work that I plan on doing in the future. Just a few days ago, I walked into a classroom with a group of students buzzing about what conference they were assigned to represent for Model United Nations (MUN). Dr. Brink quieted us down, told us to become familiar with the topic we have been assigned, and to take a position on it. My excitement for getting to do this with a partner knots my stomach; it will build in me ability to think and converse critically through issues on a nation-wide level, which should help me to see my talents for researching, debating, and most importantly, negotiating nation-wide problems.
Later, next academic year, being somewhere that I can smell honeyed philoh daily, drifting out of urban cafes—the Balkans (see fig. 2), should catapult me into a situation where I get to study peace and conflict much more intently than MUN will let me do.
Fig. 1. Map of the Balkans 
The words of the pages I read will zero in on this topic  (Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace  , at least), and bullet holes in ancient stone block buildings  , will begin to form in me foundational principles for working towards reunification between people groups. “Hmm’s”, heated voices, and teary eyes, some translated, may be part of what I hear in doing field research for an honors sociology thesis.
Following my return from the Balkans, after hearing my mom’s camera click a photo of me wearing a golden tassled graduation cap, hopefully with a gold sash around my shoulders, reading, “honors”, I should be soon headed off to either another country to serve with the Peace Corps (PC) (see figure 1). 
Fig. 2. Peace Corps logo 
Some of the community development positions the PC offers sound similar to the work I did this past summer in MS.  PID offers a good representation of community development if they are doing similar task in their development to other organizations. A community services volunteer position in Armenia includes helping locals create positions with which youth can be aided. In MS I worked with locals to create a summer program for the kids.  Working with the Peace Corps could help me develop skills related to reconciliation. I would learn to grow accustomed to a new culture, and to communicate very clearly. I would probably experience some discord with the group I visit at first, especially with the high possibility that wherever I go will hold a very different understanding of gender roles from myself. This would offer me an opportunity for working through conflicts and misunderstandings between myself and the group of people I work with, rather than what I imagine myself doing later, which would be some sort of assisted working through problems, like I did as an RA, or like Nikolay Mendelev does with UNAMI.
Another route I can take is going to another part of the US to serve with Americorps.  Here I will continue to develop an eye for “edges of [others’] differences that scrape together.”  That skill will be important for spotting upsets in other individuals as well as organizations of people who clash out of misapprehension.
So that’s what I can do in the future. What about now?
Restoration of friendly relations between people I am in contact with now could be the result of actions I take now. I notice an attitude of repulsion in some of my friends’ comments regarding the group of students who have taken LGBT rights up as their burden to carry.  A comment like, “People protesting at the bell are being disrespectful towards Tom by encouraging people to not go to chapel” reveals a perspective in which the person holding it would not join that group of people at that period of time, because they perceive that action to hold the meaning of support, which they clearly do not. That repulsion will not go away so long as these two perspectives coexist, but the problem comes when that repulsion seeps into the rest of their campus life—when those of opposing viewpoints avert one another like North South magnets.
EP held a party this past Thursday, where all sorts of people were invited. This was a natural environment for a diverse group of people to form, including those of both perspectives on what Gordon should do with its life and conduct statement. It incorporated also people who have not had close interactions with those of other perspectives. This should have affected in small part the perspective in my friends that people from the other side are not terrible people. A follow up conversation with them might be required to draw out this perspective. I could bring up the topic, and if they don’t consider their closer interactions with this other group, then I will ask them to make considerations based on those interactions. Questions rather than assertive statements will be my strategy that keeps myself from attempting to force others to consider the opposing point of view, like the negatives of coercing others to reconcile as I established earlier.
I Can Rest Because of God’s Menuha 
God is the ultimate hero, so I am free to fence-mend without the compulsory stress that would result from believing that humanity will be fixed solely by the work of man.  Many have gone on in an overwhelming state, acting not from the restful core of heart that trusts in God’s whole world redeeming work, but rather from an center filled with anxiety, filled with anxiety because it understands each minute ticking by to be a lost opportunity to move towards saving mankind. I’m having a hard time ruling whether Paul Farmer lives in a state of freedom to do good  , or whether he moves through life almost forced, slave-like even, driven by the eternally pressing in conscience, telling him, “You must do more. You could be using this time better. If you don’t do this, nobody will.” He almost never slept in the portrait offered in his biography. He constantly moved through from task to task, from meeting with a conference of folks to discuss global health movements, to making a day long trek to a patient’s home in Haiti. I want to do great things like him, and yet I want to have a life that seems more characterized by rest and trust in God’s ultimate sanctification of all life. John Bailie prays a prayer that I want to echo, because in it is found the posture of submission to the Lord’s final, all-encompassing work, “To thy care, O God, I commend my soul and the souls of all whom I love and who love me; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” 
As I grow closer to the flute I mentioned to open this essay, I may start to hear what sounds like a war flute, piping away marching melodies, but the tune I’m drawing towards, which also draws me, sounds comes across as more of an elf’s song of peace, where the goal wherever I am working is to make that song play between groups of people who had previously been singing a dischordant harmony to the war tune. My commitment to and longing for Christ keeps me wandering. I am going to keep encouraged by working towards proximate justice  , but my dreams will stay huge, like William Wilburforce’s.  I find rest in not needing to carry every care the Christ is concerned with. With this restful habit of heart, I will push towards the goal of reconciliation, “for Christ and His Kingdom.” 
 Greg Carmer, author attended EP class discussion. 9 December 2014.
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I wrote this paper for the final course in an honors program I was part of at Gordon College: The Elijah Project. This program focused on vacation. You can find the syllabus for this course below.