Ten Things that Make Life Worth Living

Jacqueline Bussie shares her top ten insights for what makes life worth living.

If you have never met Jacqueline Bussie, then you should just skip to the video clip below so that you experience her uniquely exuberant form of wisdom. Jacqueline is the Director of the Forum on Faith and Life and a professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Her book Love Without Limits (Fortress, 2018) was declared a “must read” book for Christians by Publisher’s Weekly. Her book Outlaw Christian (Thomas Nelson, 2016) won a 2017 Gold Medal Illumination Award for Christian Living. She has been an active member of NetVUE for many years, including speaking as part of a panel at the pre-conference gathering at the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Diego last November.

Jacqueline recently recorded a short video slip (26 minutes) in which she shared her “top ten” thoughts about what makes life worth living. The video is part of a series put together by the Living Well Center for Vocation and Purpose at Lenoir Rhyne University, where Mindy Makant is the director.

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Pandemic reflection on a pin oak tree

The requirement to work and teach from home this spring afforded me close observations of goings-on in my small back yard. The daily experiences of watching nature in the yard during this time of pandemic disruption provided quiet means to think about what we can and cannot control in our lives of vocation. Another spring of harsh weather caused me to ponder whether the life of a little pin oak tree might serve as an image of vocation.

Spring 2020 has not been kind to the young pin oak tree I planted more than three years ago. One morning in March, about the time I started working from home, several birds nipped off almost all of the branch tips. I watched them do this, in a matter of minutes, and refrained from intervening because I wasn’t certain whether or not the incident was naturally beneficial to the tree. Almost two months later, in early May, a hard, overnight frost killed all of the tree’s emerging leaves. This particular tree has survived much in its short life.

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Finding vocation in loss, suffering, and death

There could be no better time than the present moment, with the Covid-19 pandemic threatening human life all over the world, to ask the question, “How might we find vocation in loss, suffering, and death?” To help us think about that question, I want to begin with a story.

It was almost twenty years ago when I learned that the Lilly Endowment had awarded Pepperdine University, where I taught at that time, a $2 million grant to support the “theological exploration of vocation” with our students.

I was ecstatic, and only moments after that call, I met one of my classes and shared the news with my students. They all were delighted—all, that is, except one. Far from delighted, he seemed distressed and troubled and told me straight up, “This project strikes me as a gift to children of privilege, a project that will simply cater to their own self-absorption. Most of the people in the world,” he continued, “don’t have the luxury of thinking about their ‘vocation.’ Life for them is a struggle simply to survive.”

My student’s words hit me like a bolt of lightning and reinforced a truth I already knew—that to serve our students well, this project had to encourage them to envision their lives and careers in terms much larger than themselves.

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