Dec 31, 2000

Dear Joe,

Congratulations! You've made it -- almost. One semester left, and your college years will be behind you.

Do you remember when you started on your journey in the land of Ames? You were excited and a bit nervous all at once. You were more prepared than some -- you were blessed with a great roommate, had your major firmly decided, and had a good scholarship. But still you were concerned about leaving family and friends behind in Cedar Rapids.

Look where God has brought you, though! From the beginning, things were looking bright. Sure, the first semester was tough, with Physics 1 and Calc 2, but with God's help you made it (with good grades even). You began to "bond" with some of your hallmates. You began to plug yourself into an encouraging and uplifting church. You became involved with two great campus groups.

From there things have been up and down, but mostly up. You have learned along the way about what it means to be a good friend (and when to let go); you have learned about love (and what love isn't); you have learned about how God provides when you don't understand how He will. You have made some great friendships. You have increased your knowledge of computer engineering, readying yourself for a career. And you have had time along the way to ponder this life and what it all means.

And now, you are approaching the beginning of a new year, and more importantly the beginning of your last semester at Iowa State. I know you always try to fill your days with meaning, to make the most of every opportunity, to save the best for last, etc. But just to refresh your memory, I'd like to give you a few exhortations.

1) As always, get a head start on everything worth doing. From past experience, you know full well that deadlines, especially class deadlines, can sneak up quickly. Of course you don't procrastinate on purpose, but in mid-semester, there are so many daily responsibilities that it becomes hard to devote time to long-range projects. So stay on task.

2) Keep your daily schedule in check so that you can make time for...other priorities. Never be too busy to take a few minutes to "enjoy life" -- to watch the sunset, the sunrise, the stars, the trees in the spring, to take a bike ride around the great city of Ames, or to have a conversation with a friend (or a stranger). Remember that life is about more than classwork. Remember that classes, while they are important, are passing, and it's the people you'll remember the most.

3) Make an effort to get up earlier. Sure, there will be those 2:30 a.m. nights, but strive to go to bed at a decent hour (midnight or before), and to get up before 6:30. Try to catch a few glimpses of the sunrise, especially when it doesn't conflict with breakfast. Also, attempt to establish a more dedicated schedule of Bible reading, instead of the rather haphazard schedule during fall 2000.

4) Build bridges. This is a far-reaching goal, I suppose, but you know what I mean. Keep in touch with Iowa State friends via telephone and in person. Do things with people. Be careful not to be a burden, but take advantage of every opportunity to build relationships. Try to restore better relationships with high school friends via email or telephone. You know that the tendency is to let the email-based long distance friendships slip away. You've seen that happen over the course of three years. But strive to improve the situation. After all, you know that these high school friends may well be your main peer group in the months and years to come if you find yourself in Cedar Rapids after graduation.

5) Be wise with financial issues. This is a double-edged sword. Of course you realize you must be careful how you spend your money. I know this will be an increasing problem, with thoughts of salary budgeting in mind, and purchasing a car and getting established in a career. On the other hand, though, don't be too stingy. You've learned in college not to worry so much about eating at "non-fast food" restaurants. Sure "real" restaurants are more expensive, but if you spend within reason, it'll work out. Life is not about the food, but about the people you eat it with. Consider the cost, small or great, as a token offering for the opportunity to eat with others. Also, do not be stingy with your offerings to God and to the church. You know God has blessed you throughout your college years, so be willing to support a God-ordained cause that you feel led to support. Finally, be mindful of the needs around you, whether they be spiritual, physical, or other. If you can help, and feel God's call, by all means do it. Be willing to change your plans, even at the last minute, if you really think it's something you should do. Don't be lazy.

6) Don't be a coward. I won't chastise you, but consider whether you've lived up to your potential or not. Have you shied away from risks in the past for fear of failure? Consider wisely the decisions that come before you. Don't refuse to take risks just because they are new or because you might fail. If you do take a risk, and do fail, don't let that keep you from dusting off your garments and continuing your walk.

7) Let your motto be "Enjoy life." This is not an irresponsible enjoyment, but a deep-seated joy and energy that can transcend whatever difficulty may come. You know that your life has been "cush," and you've had only a few real tests of faith. But practice your faith and trust as best you know how, facing each test, large or small, with the grace of a wise man, not the quick-tempered whining of a fool. Keep in the back of your mind the remembrance that life should be joyful, even if it's not always happy. Seek out joy even in the midst of trial or melancholy. Seek to give out joy, and continue to purify and selfless-ize your joy-giving. Seek out the love of God and of others, but work just as hard if not harder at perfecting your love for God and others -- a love beyond mere words, and a love beyond the sappy sentimentality or (on the other hand) the empty facade that is often seen. Don't lose your reflective flair. Don't get so caught up in "stuff" that you can't see the stuffless things of life. Sometimes the stuff clings to the worthwhile things in life (tarnished silver), and sometimes the stuff is simply excess baggage to be dealt with quickly or to be thrown overboard entirely. Be wise when to remove the tarnish, and when to take out the trash. Remember the fountain by the golf course. Remember Reiman Gardens. Remember the swingset at the old Hawthorn Court. Remember central campus stars at night. Remember the Festival of Lights on the ISU sidewalks. Remember study trips to Friley late at night. Remember Brookside Park. Remember the starfade. Remember sunrises. Remember the sunsets in Buchanan. Remember the (very) occasional hot air balloons. Remember the football games. Remember the trail between Hy-Vee and Vet Med. Remember all the out-of-the-way places that make Ames unique.

Joe, I hope you will heed my words, and be intentional about making this semester the best one yet. I have focused on your personal life -- your thought life -- in this letter, but I hope you will extend that to others as well. Remember your service is to others and not only yourself. Continue to grow in the disciplemaking mentality. Remember to do everything as if working for God, and remember to seek God's help in all you do. Treat Jesus as your divine friend, and I believe He will draw near to you. I know you've felt that Jesus was distant sometimes, but hang in there...continue to hold up your end, always be accepting of correction from those you trust (listen to it with respect, even if you don't agree), and wait on Jesus' timing.

May the Lord's grace be with you, my friend.

Your self,
- Joe