The Path Not Chosen

Our friend Nicole Kircher recently wrote an article on how she’s seeing God at work. These short articles – called Missional Moments – are published weekly during the academic year. If you’d like to receive them, you can do so here.

The Path Not Chosen —  Nicole Kircher

I’m thinking about what I do today, and how I’ve come to where I am. I am privileged to teach where I do (at a large private university in the San Francisco Bay Area), and there isn’t a week that goes by since I started several years ago where I am not personally thankful to God for where He’s placed me professionally. 

But no, I would not have intentionally chosen the path I have been on. I am skilled in the discipline wherein I teach, but I would’ve chosen something slightly different. Something flashier and higher profile, and more reflective of how I saw myself as an undergrad.

And: I wouldn’t choose to be divorced after a relatively short marriage. I wouldn’t choose to be a single mom and for my son to not experience living in a home where both of his parents are committed to each other and love each other. I wouldn’t even choose to live and work where I do, primarily because of the exorbitant cost of living. I could go on.

But God.

I am not interjecting “God” here because it is the Christian thing to do or say. That would be simplistic and would diminish how God has orchestrated every gut-wrenching, shameful, confusing, and isolating moment in my life to get me to where I am now.

He has been faithful when I haven’t. He has been consistent when I forgot what I believed in en lieu of getting my needs met in unholy ways. He has been gentle because He is a good Father.

I pray that each one of us, with our own broken pasts and our own regrets and mistakes, uses our influence to show our students what God can and wants to do for them.

Even though I wouldn’t have chosen my personal history, because of it, I can now connect with many students who have gone through similar circumstances. So many of my own students are single mothers trying to earn their degrees so they can provide for their children, and I can relate to them at a heart level. Occasionally, as I feel the Holy Spirit leading, I’ll share with these women (and some of my other students) about my faith. While I pray diligently before I open up in this way, I have yet to have a student be unwilling to hear what I’ve had to say.

Nearly all of my students have expressed feeling encouraged and thanked me for opening up and sharing hope. 

I know that many of us are pouring into the lives of our students; they see that we care about them and love them. Let us please remember to point back to the One who cares for and loves us! The One who placed us intentionally in this position of privilege and honor, and the One who will use both our peaks and valleys to minister to those we serve.

Nicole Kircher (Academy of Art, San Francisco)


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On the Road

“Missional Moments” are short, weekly updates sent out during the year by Faculty Commons. Here’s an outstanding recent example by Professor Amanda Hodges. If you’d like to begin receiving Missional Moments, you can do so here.

On The Road

What best describes your early months of 2020 as an academic? Fear, panic, depression, division, disruption, determination, dedication, hope, community, love, peace, tranquility? – I can relate to some, if not all, of the terms above. I remember the day we learned that research at our university would suddenly “pause.” 

The timing could not have been worse for my program.

I had been studying an invasive insect for several years, and we had seen a significant increase of the population during January and February of 2020. March should have been the time for critical data, and then it wasn’t. Instead, we were banned from any research and even remote fieldwork because of the pandemic.

An entire year of research lay in waste at my feet for several projects. 

Loss, despair, irritation, and anger are real and undeniable emotions in such a scenario for many academic professionals.

Yet, there was no time.

With my inbox flooding, the phone ringing, and a videoconference awaiting my attention, I needed to carry on and proceed with publications, grants, virtual extension event planning, and student mentoring. To try to mitigate the spread of the pandemic, it seemed as if the whole world had stopped, except for essential hospital workers and us – academics toiling away in their remote offices.

In the chaos of 2020, with the pandemic and the riots over social justice issues, how do we bear witness to our hope and salvation that is Jesus Christ?

I don’t have the answers. In fact, I may be the least qualified to write this as I’ll admit that sometimes I have had trouble seeing God among the rubble of our current situation. After all, this is no longer the “business as usual” academic position where I felt God had called me to serve.

Fortunately, the Scriptures point to the ultimate doubters as our redemption model – the disciples. Their world had just been turned upside-down. The Teacher had been crucified. This was not their model for divine discipleship. Sadly, they didn’t even recognize Him on the road to Emmaus. Jesus had to open their eyes to see, so that they could begin the ministry and future that they never imagined. 

As academics, what can we learn on our road to Emmaus with Jesus this year (Luke 24:13-35)? 

Slow down and reflect. I’m learning that taking the time for reflection has improved my research and calendar management for the 2020-21 academic cycle.
Determine what’s essential and what’s not. Prayer and the study of the Scriptures are essentials.

Accept the divine plan in every situation in life, even if we can’t understand it. For me, this requires completely re-training my mind every day as a scientist.

See Jesus walking with us. Though my mind sometimes creates roadblocks or blinders, I need to remind myself that He’s always there. So each day is a new opportunity to meet him on the road and hopefully, to have the opportunity to introduce Him to my colleagues and students.

Dr. Amanda Hodges (Entomology and Nematology, U of Florida)


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“Hard Conversations: How do we engage people with whom we strongly disagree?” featuring Tim Muehlhoff

Biola University Professor Tim Muehlhoff (Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) recently gave two webinars to a group of adult professionals on the topic “Hard Conversations: How do we engage people with whom we strongly disagree?” He’s an engaging communicator, with both academic and personal experiences in this area.

Part 1: Interpersonal Relationships
Recorded webinar now viewable here

Part 2: Public Engagement
Recorded webinar now viewable here

Timothy Muehlhoff | People, Biola University

About Tim Muehlhoff: While teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tim Muehlhoff received his department’s highest award for teaching and has been recognized by the International Communication Association for outstanding teaching. In his M.A. thesis, Muehlhoff developed a method of encouraging civil dialogue and perspective-taking between groups who perceive themselves as morally opposed with no room for, or interest in, connection. Extending his thesis research, his dissertation focused on a performative approach to enriching marital communication. His research interests also include social justice, gender, family communication, interpersonal communication and persuasion. His current project involves understanding the narratives of oppressed women in rural parts of New Delhi, India.

Sponsored by Cru City Austin (part of Cru’s ministry to adult professionals).

Tim Muehlhoff will be our keynote at our West Coast faculty conference scheduled for Friday – Saturday March 12-13, 2021. More information to follow.

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Oxford University Professor John Lennox: “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” — free book offer

“We are living through a unique, era-defining period. Many of our old certainties have gone, whatever our view of the world and whatever our beliefs. Whether you are a Christian or not, the coronavirus pandemic is perplexing and unsettling for all of us. How do we begin to think it through and cope with it?”– John Lennox, Introduction, Where Is God In A Coronavirus World

John Lennox — Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College. Lennox has been part of numerous public debates defending the Christian faith against well-known atheists including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Peter Singer.

“No voice in the Western world is clearer and wiser than that of John Lennox. For all who want to pause to think, this is the book to read.” Os Guinness

John Lennox,, and Faculty Commons are offering a free pdf copy of this book to any faculty or grad student who registers below by October 15th. (The printed version sells for $5.99 on Amazon.)

To receive a free copy, please fill out this brief form.

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Faculty + Student Prayer: Thursdays 9:10am-9:45am


Please join us as faculty and students pray together 9:10am-9:45am every Thursday Fall Quarter, beginning Thursday September 17th.

Please contact us for the Zoom code.

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G-3 faculty small groups: Fall 2020

G-3 groups are groups of 4-5 faculty members meeting for 50 minutes every other week for for community, growth, and prayer. This quarter all G-3s will be meeting via Zoom. The groups are committed to:

• building community: a chance to share with a few others about life – challenges and opportunities, both on and off campus.

• growing faith: taking time to discuss a passage of Scripture or short article together, and pray for each other.

• living out our faith: why has God called each of us to a public university? What does it mean to live “on mission” on campus, with our colleagues and students?

© 2020 Cerro San Luis, David ZagRodnyG-3’s are open to faculty wherever they are at in their spiritual journey: whether interested in exploring Christianity or growing in their faith.

The groups are are designed to work around faculty members schedules, and the small group format makes it easier to find a time when a group can meet.

Currently, we have five different G-3 groups currently scheduled for Fall 2020. Please contact us for specifics if you’d like to be part of a group.

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Tim Keller: “A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory”

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Which justice? There have never been stronger calls for justice than those we are hearing today. But seldom do those issuing the calls acknowledge that currently there are competing visions of justice, often at sharp variance, and that none of them have achieved anything like a cultural consensus, not even in a single country like the US. It is overconfident to assume that everyone will adopt your view of justice, rather than some other, merely because you say so.

Pastor and theologian Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City) gives a thoughtful and biblical critique of secular justice and critical theory. 

This is an additional article in the series on justice and race by Timothy Keller that includes: “The Bible and Race” (March 2020), “The Sin of Racism” (June 2020), and coming in September 2020, “Justice in the Bible.”

The Problem We Face

Which justice? There have never been stronger calls for justice than those we are hearing today. But seldom do those issuing the calls acknowledge that currently there are competing visions of justice, often at sharp variance, and that none of them have achieved anything like a cultural consensus, not even in a single country like the US. It is overconfident to assume that everyone will adopt your view of justice, rather than some other, merely because you say so.

Biblical justice. In the Bible Christians have an ancient, rich, strong, comprehensive, complex, and attractive understanding of justice. Biblical justice differs in significant ways from all the secular alternatives, without ignoring the concerns of any of them. Yet Christians know little about biblical justice, despite its prominence in the Scriptures. This ignorance is having two effects. First, large swaths of the church still do not see ‘doing justice’ as part of their calling as individual believers. Second, many younger Christians, recognizing this failure of the church and wanting to rectify things, are taking up one or another of the secular approaches to justice, which introduces distortions into their practice and lives.

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The History of Justice

The traditions. No one has done a better job of explaining our current predicament over justice than Alasdair MacIntyre, especially in his book Whose Justice? Which Rationality? He shows that behind every understanding of justice is a set of philosophical beliefs about (a) human nature and purpose (b) morality, and (c) practical rationality—how we know things and justify true beliefs. In his book he traces out four basic historical traditions of justice. There is the Classical (Homer through Aristotle), the Biblical (Augustine through Aquinas, whose accomplishment was to incorporate some of Aristotle), the Enlightenment (especially Locke, Kant, and Hume)—which then set the stage for the modern Liberal approach, which has fragmented into a number of competing views that struggle with one another in our own day …

The entire article can be found here


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8/6/20 Cru, Intervarsity, Navigators ministering together – “Back to School” night

Thursday evening August 6th Cru, Intervarsity, Navigators, and multiple other campus ministries will be working together to host “Every Campus: A Virtual Back-to-School Gathering” – a nation-wide, one hour, free event for incoming and returning college students. 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific. 

Every Campus 8-6-20

We’re especially excited to have our faculty friends Dr. Heather Holleman (Penn State University) and Dr. Josh Swamidass (Washington University, St Louis) included in the speaker lineup. More info can be found at

Please join us in praying for this event. And, of course, feel free to pass along and invite any college or college age students you know. 


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6/4/20 “We Are Done Dying” event

Please consider joining Cal Poly faculty, staff, and members of the community for the “We Are Done Dying” event Thursday June 4th at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse from 5-6pm.


This peaceful and safe action rally is organized by NAACP San Luis Obispo County Branch, with the support of RACE Matters SLO County and Cal Poly Black Faculty and Staff. Please respect social distancing guidelines and wear a mask.

In addition, a couple of area churches will be sponsoring a community prayer gathering 4-5pm a few blocks away in Mitchell Park. 

community prayer gathering 16_9

Please feel free to join us for either event. 



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The Beauty of Agenda-Free Relationships

As I reflect back to when the COVID-19 crisis started, it saddens me to realize that the crisis did NOT have a profound impact on my relationships. “Missional Moments” are short, weekly updates sent out during the year by Faculty Commons. As we finish up the academic year, here’s an outstanding recent example by Professor John Chen. If you’d like to begin receiving Missional Moments, you can do so here.

As I reflect back to when the COVID-19 crisis started, it saddens me to realize that the crisis did NOT have a profound impact on my relationships. 

Yes, it impacted the group gatherings I enjoyed. 

I felt intensely the loss of meetings with my church, my small group, the faculty luncheons, and my classroom. 

But that’s not what I am talking about.  


Being isolated at home made me acutely aware that my personal relationships are more arms-length than I cared to admit. 

This realization hit me like a lightning bolt.

In the normal course of my life, I video-conference with my co-authors since almost all of them are at other universities.  And I even sometimes video-conference with the co-author sitting two doors down from me. My interactions with most of my acquaintances are largely through texts and emails.  

The COVID-19 crisis had no impact on those relationships.

Yet, Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes us:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

As the crisis worsened, I noticed something interesting taking shape in me. 

I wondered when was the last time that I had an agenda-free time with someone? 

To just be with them, to fellowship, to minister or be ministered to? 

So I asked God to reveal to me which people to call to say “How are you?”

I tried to forget my pre-crisis protocol of “when would be a good time to connect, three weeks from now at 2:43 for five minutes? Glad we could work it out.”

Now, I am going old-school and just picking up the phone and calling. 

As I write this, I just got off the phone with a friend.  Before we hung up, we both remarked what a deep, rich time we had. I had in my mind maybe a fifteen-minute call. It turned into nearly an hour and a half.

Why in the world did I wait so long to re-connect? 

COVID-19 has provided me the wonderful opportunity to reverse this trend of  “impersonal text preferred, call only if necessary, and avoid meeting in person at all costs.” I’m trusting God that I can be fully present with people, beginning with my family, but also my colleagues, my students, my friends, and extending to those on the fringe of my social circle. 

So why not think of at least three people with whom you rarely interact but know in (or outside) the academy and just call them?

If you feel the need to text or email first, that is OK. In our current situation, they are almost certainly at home, probably free, and, at least with everyone I have called, eager to hear another’s voice given our unprecedented circumstances.

While it took a crisis to awaken me, I pray for transformation towards a new normal where I replace agenda-driven interactions with Spirit-directed conversations to touch another with the love of God.

Dr. John Chen (Management, Warrington College of Business, University of Florida)



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