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A baseball game (White Sox vs Twins) with my friend Matt – great seats!

One of the very best things about working in higher education is getting to follow the rhythms of the academic calendar. In between the spring and fall semester is this three month period (mid May to mid August) – summer break. The misconception is that we have our “summers off,” but the reality is that we are freed up to work on the projects that are important to us (and for some of us that means continuing to teach summer classes). But rather than it being, “Finally, I can take a break from work!” it is more like “Finally, I can work on that thing I’ve been wanting to do!” That said, resting and recovering are also important things that we do.

So what have I been doing? I spent the first couple of weeks of summer break prepping my courses for the fall: revising my syllabi, making sure I was set on the textbooks, making notes about changes to lectures. I find it is best to do this when I am still in course mode.

But soon I transitioned into summer mode, which was oriented around preparing for some of the talks I was able to give on five trips this summer:

1. A trip to Pasadena, CA to preach two new-ish sermons at my former church, Grace Pasadena – “Seeking Security” and “Making Names.” The sermons contained some material from my forthcoming book, and I will post them here in coming weeks. The whole family went, which allowed Melissa to go into the office, and the rest of us to sit by the pool and read books – a favorite past time.

2. A trip to Dallas, TX to give a talk for the Society for Classical Learning’s summer conference. What a great group! My talk was entitled, “Beauty and Belief: The Apologetics of Culture Care”. I’ll also post it soon. I also was able to hear a dynamite presentation from Dana Gioia, and to reconnect with my friend Jessica Hooten Wilson (my connection to SCL).

No pressure, just an auditorium full of classical educators who study & teach rhetoric!

3. A trip to Orlando, FL to give two seminars to students at Alliance’s triennial LIFE conference. I gave my Reimagining Apologetics presentation. There were around 6,000 students at the conference and about 70 seminar speakers, but when I learned that the seminars were optional for the students, I thought, “I hope at least a few students show up.” I definitely underestimated their initiative. My first seminar had 300 students in attendance; the second around 500. They were so engaged and thoughtful, and many stayed afterwards to ask follow up questions. It was a blessing to be there, and especially to see my good friend James Lee, who was part of the conference team.

“Hi, I’m Justin, a speaker slash artist”

4. A trip to Seattle, WA to speak at the Cascade Family Bible Camp. The camp went really well. Since I only was scheduled to speak in the evenings, I enjoyed exploring the PNW during the day, including trips to Deception Pass and Mt. Erie. Beautiful. Thanks to Aaron Baart and Ryan Smit for the connection.

At the top of Mt. Erie

5. A trip to St. Thomas – this felt like a once in a lifetime trip. Here’s the story: my college roommate, who also stood up in my wedding, ended up moving to Sioux Center about a year before we did (totally unrelated positions). After five years, he accepted a call at a church in St. Thomas: St. Thomas Reformed Church (founded in 1660). When he left, I bought his snow blower (which he no longer needed) and joked with him that if he invited me to speak, I would become an expert on any subject. He reached out in early March, and I responded with the quickest “yes” I’ve ever given to a speaking engagement. We were able to turn it into an epic family trip – and man, was it hard to come home! I am so thankful for this brother, his heart for people, and for the chance to spend time with him and his family.

At the top of the hike at Brewer’s Beach

That’s my report of my summer travels! I am thankful for the opportunity to travel, especially given the way that Covid kept us mostly at home for at least a year. Yet, all of us need to be rooted in a place, and so I am also thankful to be back home in Sioux Center, ready to begin another semester!

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