Pierce VanDunk

About Pierce VanDunk

I'm a Junior at Nyack College studying Bible and Theology. I love Jesus, which is why I want to be a Bible professor; my goal is to learn as much as I can about Him and teach others what I learn. My favorite teams are the Mets, Celtics, and Cowboys (don't hate me New Yorkers!). I also enjoy playing guitar and reading. Connect with Pierce on Google+

To Be a True Worshiper

Christian Faith Fellowship Family ChurchMusic has always been a large of my church experience and my interaction with God, especially as a musician, but it has taken me a long time and a lot of teaching to fully understand that true worship goes far beyond singing songs. Hymns and praises are significant and meaningful as corporate expressions of our love for and devotion to God, but they make up only a portion of what it means to be a true worshiper. My pastor, Pastor Joe McKelvey of Christian Faith Fellowship Family Church in Middletown, New York, articulated well what it really means to worship, drawing on two key texts, John 4:23 and Numbers 16. He says, and I agree, that true worship results from knowing God and following his ways; it does not consist of empty ceremony.

The sixteenth chapter of Numbers tells the story of Korah, who tried to exalt himself above Moses and Aaron as leaders of the Israelites. Korah and his followers tried to bring an offering of incense to the Lord, but their offering was not sincere and they did not truly know God. This empty offering did not please God but made Him angry, and this resulted in the deaths of Korah and his followers. What we can learn from this story is that the motions of worship; the songs, the dances, the half-raised hands; are not what gives God glory. There must be more to worship than the motions that it involves.

John chapter 4 recounts Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. When Jesus says that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (verse 6, ESV), he is dispelling the notion that God can only be truly worshiped in Jerusalem by the Jews. He is making clear that everyone has the ability and opportunity to worship God, no matter where they are located. Many people believe that worship can only be done in the church when the band is playing. This is far from the truth. Whenever we evangelize, pray, fellowship, or do anything in obedience to God, we are in the act of worship. Our every-day lives can and should continually bring Him glory.

Worship is far too vast to fit neatly into a musical number. It is a mindset, a state of being, and a lifestyle. We should not limit our worship to lyrics and chords; we need to live lives that honor God and give him glory. That is how to be a true worshiper.

How to Travel Between Nyack and New York City

Many people that live in New York City are comfortable staying in the five boroughs and attending college there, and the Nyack College Manhattan campus is available for them to do just that. Other residents of NYC would prefer to escape the urban atmosphere during the academic year, and the Rockland campus is the perfect place for them to be removed from the city for a small town artsy community. The problem comes when it is time to travel between Nyack and New York City at the beginning or end of a semester, or for a short trip or a weekend visit home. When transporting a lot of luggage during move-in or check-out, driving will be your best option; there are a few different routes that will bring you to Rockland County from the City. When you are staying a short while and all of your necessities can fit in a carry-on bag, public transportation will most likely suit you better than driving; there are two modes of public transportation, bus and train, that will bring you from Rockland to New York City or vice versa.

CTA button for Blog UGThere are three ways to drive between Nyack and New York City: the Palisades Parkway, the New York Thruway, and the Garden State Parkway. The Palisades Parkway is the shortest route, being about a forty-five minute drive. The Thruway and the Garden State Parkway are both a few minutes more than an hour drive. Which route you choose should depend on traffic; if one route is stopped up because of an accident or rush-hour traffic, you should choose a different route.

The bus is the cheaper of the two public transportation options. Rockland Coaches, a company that operates through Coach USA, offers bus rides into and out of the City and is in place mainly to service commuters. The coaches pick up passengers in Nyack as well as in various other locations throughout Rockland County. A one way trip between Nyack and the George Washington Bridge terminal costs just under nine dollars, and a trip between Nyack and the Port Authority terminal costs ten dollars.

If you would like to take the train, you will need to find a way across the bridge to the train station in Tarrytown, which is about fifteen minutes away from the Rockland campus. A taxi will be your most comfortable option, but taking the Tappan Zee Express from Nyack to Tarrytown will be much cheaper. The Tappan Zee Express is a bus service that runs daily and costs three dollars to ride. Once in Tarrytown, you can take the Metro North train service from the Tarrytown station to Grand Central Station for thirteen dollars one way. With both bus and train fares included, your round trip cost will be about thirty-two dollars.

Traveling between Nyack and New York City can be a hassle, but with proper planning, it should not be an issue. Transporting a lot of luggage may present problems, but as long as you or a loved one have a car that is big enough, one of the three driving routes should serve you well. If you are not carrying a lot with you, the bus or train will serve you better. However you choose to get there, I hope you have safe travels and enjoy your trip.

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Staying Productive During Summer Vacation

Nyack College summer breakWarm weather, clean sheets, and home cooked food…Summer vacation is finally here! Now that finals are over, it’s finally time to rest. For most of us, all we want to do is eat, lay down, and watch T.V. It’s fine to do that for a little while, but it can be easy to let relaxing and eating become the extent of your summer activities. Here are a few tips to help you get off of the couch and stay productive during summer vacation:

1. Work! When you want to go to the movies, bowl, eat at a restaurant, or do anything else that isn’t free, having a steady job makes these activities hurt your wallet less. Many employers will take on college students for a few months while they are home from school. Outdoor jobs that are only available during the spring and summer will often look for college students as employees. I have life-guarded for almost five years, and I have always had a job waiting for me when I come home from Nyack College. Even year-round jobs will sometimes hire seasonal workers. Stay persistent and consistent during your job search. My dad always tells me that once you apply somewhere, you should call the place regularly until they give you a definite answer. This may seem like you are being a nuisance, but it is showing the employer that you are persistent and consistent. It never hurts to ask if an employer will take you on for May through August. Even if you get a few “no’s,” keep searching and applying until you find a good job.

2. Volunteer! Find time to give back to your community while you are on break. Soup kitchens, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and other organizations are usually looking for more volunteers to lend a hand, even if it is only for a few months. Getting active in your community helps to improve the place where you live, and it will be a rewarding experience for you. Plus it looks great on a resume for all those future job hunts!

3. Educate yourself! I know that the burdens of education are the very things that you are trying to escape during summer break, but it is good to keep your mind active even when you are away from school. When there are no tests to study for, no papers to write, and no professors to please, you are at liberty to choose the subject that you want to learn about. Your local library has hundreds of subjects to choose from; you can learn about something without having to worry about getting a bad grade in a class. This summer I plan on reading up on theological topics that I have not learned about in the classroom, but I would also like to take in a few good fictions for fun. You do not have to stick to educational topics; even leisurely reading fiction will give your brain some much-needed exercise.

4. Enjoy friends and family! When it comes time to have fun, have it with your loved ones that you don’t get to see during the school year. Your parents, siblings, and friends from home are available to spend time with and enjoy. There are countless activities that you can do with your family and friends, so take advantage of them. Don’t seclude yourself this summer; be sociable! Getting to relax and have fun with the people you love is the best, most fulfilling part of summer vacation.

Running out of Shelf Space: What to Do with Old Textbooks and Notes

nyack college

Pierce StudyingPaying for textbooks can be a hassle, but sometimes figuring out what to do with them after the class is over can become even more problematic. It can also be hard to throw away all of the notes that took so much time and effort to create. Old textbooks and notes may be relevant only to the class they were for, but they may also continue to be relevant once the class is over. Making back a few of the dollars that you spent on books by selling them might be the best thing for you to do, but you could end up helping yourself or others by saving your old textbooks and notes.

Whenever I go into my professors’ offices I am amazed by and envious of their massive personal libraries. Each of them owns shelves and shelves of books filled with information that they have read or referenced. Many of them have also saved many of their notebooks from when they were in school so that they can look back at what they have learned over the years and re-familiarize themselves with old but relevant course material. To me, amassing a collection like this seems like a valuable thing to do. I would advise saving textbooks and notes that have something to do with the field in which you plan on having a career so that you can start making your own collection. Since I intend to become a theology professor I have started saving my theology textbooks instead of selling them, and I began filing away the notes from my theology classes instead of throwing them away. I hope to have a personal library as large as the ones that my professors have one day.

Many classes will have nothing to do with your projected career path, so the notes and textbooks from those classes will lose relevance after the classes are over. For classes such as these, you may want to consider renting the required texts. If you do end up buying the textbooks, selling them will probably be the best thing for you to do. You can make a quick and effortless few dollars by selling your books back to the school store, but this option will bring in the least amount of money. If you are willing to put some extra effort into it, you can make more money by selling the books to students that will take the classes in future semesters.  You will have to do more asking around, but it is worth the extra profit. I would advise charging a little less than the asking price on Amazon or Ebay. I have had some success with this, but there are still some books that I have not been able to find buyers for. If finding student buyers fails, selling the books back to the school store always remains as an option. As for notes, instead of trashing them, you can save them and give them to friends that take the class later on to help them study, especially during finals.

There are a lot of factors to consider both before and after buying textbooks and taking notes. Because of the large sums of money that are spent on textbooks and the huge amount of time spent on taking notes, what to do with these things is an important decision. With some planning, some effort, and some common sense, you can make the most out of your old textbooks and notes.

Finish What You’ve Started! Get to Graduation.

StudyingI have seen too many people leave college and never go back to finish their degrees. Some of my close friends were unable to come back to school after one year or less because of finances or grades. Leaving a degree unfinished negates all of the hard work and money that a student has put into school before leaving, and it makes the months or years spent at Nyack a waste of time. Friends and fun are a great part of the college experience, but they are not the most important things to have. In order to make these years worth the while, you need to make it to graduation. To all those pursuing a degree at Nyack College, and to everyone considering entering college, be sure to finish what you’ve started!

Not being able to keep up with the payments seems to be the most common reason that people drop out. Money may suddenly become scarce, or loans may become harder to come by; continuing to pay the school bills is not always easy. What  students needs to keep in mind is that the time that they have already spent in school has already cost them thousands of dollars, and not earning their degrees means that the money that they have already spent has been wasted. To make the expense worth it, make sure to always keep school in the center of your mind when making any financial decisions so that you can make the payments and stay at Nyack College. Other than the necessities, paying for school should be on the top of your list of priorities.

Bad grades can also ruin a student’s college career. Skipping class, not doing assignments, and not studying for tests are detrimental to a student’s chances of finishing school. When you do not have your priorities in order, having fun can rise above maintaining good grades in importance. Procrastination is also fatal to your grade point average. Waiting until the last minute to start your assignments yields rushed, low quality work. When your grades fall below a certain point, you run the risk of not being allowed to return to school. To avoid that, remember that school is more important than having fun, and start your work early.

College is an enormous commitment, but no matter how bleak the situation seems, it is not impossible to finish school. Stay strong and persevere, because the rewards are worth it. Make good financial decisions, and be focused and consistent with you schoolwork. Don’t waste your time or you money; finish what you’ve started!

Long Distance Does Work

Pierce and Tulia 2009When it comes to relationships, I hear people say quite often that long distance doesn’t work. People are usually shocked when I tell them that I have been in a relationship for almost three and a half years. They are even more surprised that my girlfriend and I go to two different schools that are over a hundred miles apart. It isn’t easy to keep a relationship going with someone when you live more than a two hour drive away from that person; it takes a lot of effort from both people to work past the humps and glitches that the distance will inevitably bring about. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

I first met Tulia Palacios on the bus to school in the ninth grade; she had recently moved to my town in New York from Miami, Florida and was still getting used to her new surroundings. She quickly became a part of the group of friends that I had known since elementary school. It took me about two years to ask her out, but in the eleventh grade we finally became a couple. It was little more than a year from that point when we were confronted with the biggest dilemma that high school couples face: where do we go with this after graduation?

I felt called to some form of ministry, and Tulia’s heart was set on family court law. Early on, we established that we would not let our desire to stay close to each other override our career paths when deciding what colleges we would attend. She chose Albany and I chose Nyack. Even though we were going from a five minute walk apart to a two hour drive apart, we were determined to last through college.

The two most important things that are needed to maintain a long distance relationship are determination and consistency. Determine that you will stay together, and be consistent in communication, commitment, and faithfulness. It will not work unless both people involved are prepared to do whatever is necessary. Remember that when one person puts in one hundred percent effort, they can only have a fifty percent effect on the situation. It takes one hundred percent effort from both people.

Don’t be discouraged if you come to a time in your life when you are faced with the challenge of living far away from the one you love. When you find someone worth the time and effort, you do what you have to do to keep them around. As long as both people are willing to do what it takes to keep things going, long distance does work.

Bagels, Car Rides, and the Transition into Maturity

Pierce's Mom, Dad, and Little Brother CoryCollege is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood. As college students we are definitely no longer children, but we are not quite at the point where we feel like mature adults. For a long time I thought that maturity could be measured by a person’s ability to make their own decisions, and I definitely couldn’t make my own decisions when my parents were making the rules. It took me until I was in college to understand that being out from underneath my parents’ roof did not automatically make me an adult.

My mom likes to tell the story of the time when I was first learning to speak and I refused to call a bagel anything other than a nonsense word that I had made up. “Pierce, this is called a bagel,” she would say to me. I would reply, “No it’s not. It’s called a _____.” She would try to correct me and I would say, “I’m not going to call it a bagel, I’m going to call it what I want to call it.” She replied, “Well, you’re just going to be wrong.” If I had listened to her back then, I would have avoided sounding silly at school asking for a bagel using a word that no one had ever heard.

When my dad left me at Nyack with his car for the first time so that I could drive it home that weekend to visit, he asked me if I knew for sure how to get home. I assured him that I had been paying attention the other times that he picked me up from school. He told me to turn on the GPS and set it for home just in case. Thinking that I knew what I was doing, I left the GPS in the glove compartment and made my way to the Thruway. I missed my exit and was halfway upstate before calling my dad and asking how to get turned around. Yet again, trying to do my own thing and ignoring the good advice of my parents got me into unnecessary trouble. To this day my family cracks jokes about it every time I drive home from college.

It took me about eighteen years to realize this, but the mark of maturity is not being able to decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. Deciding your own course of action is something that everyone will have to do on countless occasions throughout their lives. Maturity is also not signaled by no longer needing to listen to what your parent or guardian says. As we grow, we learn to value the wisdom, experience, and advice of those whom are over us. The mark of maturity is recognizing that you are in control of your own life and, based on that knowledge, making decisions that will be the most beneficial and fulfilling for both your present and future. Thankfully there are people in our lives that have been making their own decisions for much longer than we have, and they will often be happy to weigh in on how we should make ours.

What is Theology?

Pierce and PrestonWhile I was home for spring break enjoying the company of my family and some good food, I got to have a few good discussions with my brother, Preston. One of them got started because he asked me “So what, exactly, is theology?” Being a Biblical and Theological Studies major, I have an answer prepared for every time I am asked that question; it comes out automatically, almost like a reflex: Theology is the study of God; theos is the Greek route meaning “God,” and –ology is the suffix meaning “the study of.” When having a casual conversation with the average person, it is easy to leave it at this stock definition and move on, but I felt that my brother deserved something more in-depth.

When I first came to Nyack College I was also unsure as to exactly what theology is. What gave me the most helpful insight was the main text in my Introduction to Biblical and Theological Studies class, entitled Who Needs Theology, by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson. This book posits that everyone is a theologian, even non-Christians…even Atheists! Theology is simply thinking and philosophizing about deity in general, whether that deity is the God of the Christians or some other deity. That means that even those who have decided against the existence of God are theologians, since they had to ponder and consider the divine in order to deny it! You may be surprised to hear this, but  you are a theologian, too.

Even after realizing this, you probably don’t feel like a theologian; I didn’t feel like one either when I first read this in the Grenz and Olson book. When most of us think of theology, we think of old men with their doctorates writing long, complicated books on topics that almost no one actually cares about. Many of us go as far as to think that theology is harmful to ministry because it confuses people with unnecessarily complex doctrine. The way that I view Christian theology, and the way I think that everyone should view it, is  the earnest search for better and more comprehensive understandings of God in order to more properly love and serve him.

Through my studies I have come to a realization that has helped me understand what I do as a Christian theologian and why it needs to be done. God is vast, infinite, and above human understanding. No matter how much humans ponder, study, and write, we will never have a complete understanding of who God is and how he works. Instead of using this as an excuse not to try to understand him, I see it as an invitation to continually increase my understanding of him, since there will always be more to learn. I feel closest to God when I am nose-deep in the Bible or a theological text.

Preston, I hope this helps.

School, Social Life, and Sleep

Sleepy (2)The most memorable advice about college that I’ve ever received was given to me when I was still a senior in high school; a friend of mine who had just completed the first semester of his freshman year told me “College consists of three things: school, social life, and sleep.  Choose two.”  His statement didn’t seem very profound at the time, but now that I’ve experienced life as a college student for almost two years, I can see how true and insightful it really was.  As important as sleep is, sometimes it needs to be sacrificed to keep my grades up and still have fun.

There are only one hundred sixty-eight hours in a week.  One hundred sixty-eight hours into which I have to cram six classes, seventeen credits, a hundred homework assignments, a thousand friends, and a million fun things that I don’t have time for.  It’s difficult to pick what to make priorities and what to let go of, but the choice is necessary.  I usually decide to take care of schoolwork first, but there have been plenty of times when someone put on a movie or some people were going to Buffalo Wild Wings and I put off an essay until the next morning. Sometimes this practice got to be stressful, but the laughs and good times made the stress worth my while.  Everyone has a different way to manage their time, but my suggestion to everyone is to get schoolwork done as early as possible so that there is less to worry about when something fun is happening.  I applied this to my life, and it has worked wonders for my productivity.  And I thank God that I found some time to sleep in the midst of all of that, although it wasn’t much.

I’d say that I speak for 99.9% of college students when I say that rest and sleep are very last on our priority list.  Why waste a whole eight hours, right?  As long as the coffee machine keeps working, then we can run on 3 hours (or no hours) of sleep.  Since I came to Nyack, I’ve consumed more coffee than I care to admit.  When classes start early and the movie theater stays open late, coffee becomes your best friend.  I have also become very closely acquainted with Facebook.  Netflix, McDonald’s, and the Palisades saw just as much of my attention as did Simpson, Boon, and Hilltop.  This is not to say that classes are not important, but there is no way to endure them and maintain sanity without permeating them with some enjoyment.  And although sleep is the first and easiest thing to sacrifice, don’t neglect it entirely; everyone needs a few lazy Saturdays to hit the snooze button and recuperate.

So when it’s all said and done, lose a little sleep, pull a few all-nighters, and spend a couple hours enjoying the company of friends.  Finish your essay on Thursday so you can go to see a movie on Friday.  Have an extra cup of coffee to make up for it all.  The memories are worth it.

Pierce, a Biblical and Theological Studies Student at Nyack

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Pierce in Orthodox ChurchHello everyone! My name is Pierce VanDunk. This is my second year here at Nyack College, but credit-wise I am a Junior. I grew up in Middletown, New York and graduated from Pine Bush High School. I prayed the prayer of salvation at age five, but my faith was restored in the eighth grade.

My major is Biblical and Theological Studies with a concentration in Theology. In other words, I am a big Bible nerd. Nerdy in-depth theological debates are one of my favorite things in the world, and, strangely enough, I actually enjoy doing papers for classes (but only the ones that have to do with the Bible or theology). That enjoyment comes out of my desire to know God as deeply and as fully as possible. One day I want to be a professor at a Christian College teaching Bible classes so that I can share everything that I learn with others.

One of my favorite things to do is play the guitar; I have been playing since I was eleven years old, and I took lessons for three years. The first style I learned to play was the blues. I’ll bet very few of you know anything about B.B. King or Muddy Waters, but musicians like these are my biggest musical influence. I played for my church’s youth worship team while I was in high school, which is where I became very familiar with playing contemporary gospel music. I love to praise God with my guitar, but I still love to play the blues.

One of my least favorite things is how far away I am from my girlfriend. I have been in a relationship since eleventh grade, but my girlfriend Tulia goes to the University at Albany while I am in Nyack. We live around the corner from each other, so it is easy to spend time together on breaks. Unfortunately, the majority of the year is spent apart, but we make it work.

My favorite sports teams are the Mets, the Cowboys, and the Celtics (don’t kill me New Yorkers!). Being a Mets fan is a VanDunk family tradition that goes back as far as anyone alive in my family today can remember. Routing for the Cowboys runs in my mom’s side of the family. The reason I like the Celtics goes back to when I was to young to know anything about basketball. My dad’s first name is Paul, and mine is Pierce; all of you NBA fans out there know about the Celtics’ star small forward Paul Pierce. Ever since I made this connection I have routed for the Celtics. All three of these team choices have brought me ridicule from Yankee, Giant, and Knick fans, but I route for my teams unashamed!

This is my first time as a blogger, and I am happy that I am starting out with Life at Nyack. I’m really looking forward to sharing my ideas, views and experiences with the Nyack population. I also can’t wait to show prospective students what living and studying at Nyack College is really like. Above all, I am really excited to be a part of Life at Nyack!

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