Thankful

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I will be honest and say my thankfulness comes a bit more readily this time of the year. It is the season to be thankful, after all. There are daily-post challenges on social media, get-togethers with family, and holiday well wishing to make the season bright. I suppose our minds are more focused on it. But, what would our daily lives look like the other 11 months of the year if we recognized all we have to be thankful for a little more often?

In a recent Harvard Health study, positive psychology research reveals “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships” (“Giving thanks can”, 2017). Wow, that’s reason enough for me!

Now, if I put this into practice what would it look like?

Thankfulness Journal

I once heard my Pastor say he had kept a prayer journal and wrote all his concerns, then later, wrote down all the times those prayers were answered. It can become commonplace to forget how present God is in our lives. By writing down the ways we see Him working, we can be reminded and thankful for all He is doing. 1 Chronicles 29:13 (NIV) Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

Appreciate the Little Things

I can be more intentional to notice and appreciate the little things. This could be as simple as writing down 3-5 things each week I am thankful for. When we are intentional to recognize the little things, the bigger things can seem not-so-big after all. It would be really neat to look back this time next year at all the things I was thankful for each week. If I jotted down just three each week, it would add up quickly! Psalm 7:17 (NIV) I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.

Verbalize my Gratitude

Telling others how much we appreciate them not only brightens their day, but allows us to recognize how important others are to us. We’re all in this life together, whether we work together, attend class together, or sit next to each other in traffic each day, a little bit of gratitude goes a long way to spreading happiness. Let’s pay it forward! 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

 

Reference

Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier. (2017). Retrieved November 10, 2017, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

 

I Need a Break!

Earlier this week, I received an urgent message from a student asking me to call her ASAP. A number of concerns came to mind as I pondered what may have been her state of emergency.

As soon as I was able to call the student back, she immediately asked if it was too late to drop her current class. Before I answered, I grew eager to know why she needed to drop her class, especially considering this was her very last class and she was scheduled to graduate in a few weeks. If she dropped this course, it would change her completion date. All I kept pondering was: “What was going on with her?”

When I asked the student what was wrong, she said: “This class is too much and I am tired and need a break.” She recognized that dropping the class would mean she no longer qualified for December’s graduation, but in that moment, she did not care. She wanted and needed to take a break.

Because I once found myself feeling the same way when I was taking classes, my response to her was quite clear. To her I said: “You are burned out. That is what is wrong with you. I know what exhaustion feels and looks like, because almost four years ago, I was in the same position. I was in my very last graduate class and just could not find the strength to see the end through. As your fellow sister in Christ, I cannot and will not let you drop this class. You have come too far to give up now. You will be fine. You WILL finish this class and finish strong. After you are done, then you can take all the time you need.”

This situation reminded me of when my brother ran track in high school. As I watched him run long-distance, I noticed that most of the runners began the race further back than others. This was interesting to me. As the race continued, my brother would move up a little towards the middle lanes. Then as time went by and he realized that he only had a few more laps to run, my brother would suddenly take off and sprint as he took the lead over the other runners. Nervously, I sat in uncertainty wondering if he would win the race or would someone beat him. To my disappointment, as he made his last few laps, my brother seemed to have just lost wind and given up, because before I realized it, the other runners had bypassed him and he eventually gave out, coming in last place. What started out promising ended in conquest.

Oftentimes, we as believers find ourselves right at the end of a race, but then, we quit. God wants us to understand that the Christian race is one that has to be run until the end.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians, writes, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). This was Paul’s farewell address to the Church at Ephesus and he said, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy . . . ” (Acts 20:24).

So, just as I attempted to convey to the student the other day, as God’s children, we must keep running the race to win the prize. The iniquity is not in getting tired while running the race; rather, it is in giving up.

*I know you are wondering, so………THE STUDENT DECIDED TO KEEP RUNNING HER RACE AND TO NOT DROP THE CLASS. Praise God!!!!

Why are you REALLY Returning to College?

As a working adult with an extremely busy life, why do you want to complete your college degree? This is a question that our admission professionals ask prospective students. It’s a question that we’ll ask you when you come for your campus tour. A typical response to this question is focused on money as a prime motivator, and that’s okay. We would all be less than honest if we answered any other way. Really, who doesn’t want a promotion, an increase in pay, a new job – all the things that earning an undergraduate or advanced degree may provide? But…

Let’s drill down a bit. What if, in addition to the tangible benefits mentioned, returning to college provided intangible outcomes related to more deeply-seated needs? What if, in addition to fiscal rewards, you found your purpose – your life began to make sense? What if, perhaps for the first time in a long time, you felt like you belonged? These are things that we adults are hungry for and, for adults, these are things that an experience at a Christian college or university can provide.

So, my contention is that the outcome of your college experience may be a more fulfilled life. Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that when our needs for food, safety, self-esteem, and even love are met, another level of needs and associated motivators come into play. He called this the need for “self-actualization.” Maslow recognized that once we think we’ve arrived, there’s still a ways to go… that finding satisfaction in the tangibles will still leave us searching for something deeper. What might that “something deeper” be?

As an observer of adult learners (and as an adult learner myself), I feel that a major driver for us to try something as potentially daunting as returning to college is we want to figure out our purpose in life. As a young adult with a master degree from a state university, I still had no real sense of my life’s purpose. It wasn’t until I experienced deep dissatisfaction with the direction of my career in a state government agency that I was prompted to investigate why, as a Christian, I was so unhappy with my work. There was a huge disconnect between my work and my faith, and I couldn’t understand why. About this time, I became a part-time faculty member at a Christian college. It was there I was confronted for the first time with the concept of “Biblical Worldview.” I learned, among so many other things, that my work in a government agency was a calling from God – that one didn’t have to be in “church-related” work to be useful to God. He wanted me in state government. Needless to say, this game-changing insight about my purpose was a result of my connection with a Christian college. I didn’t find it in my six years of education at a state university.

In addition to a desire to find purpose in life, adult learners may consider a return to college because they’re looking to make sense of what appears to be their fragmented worlds – things in their lives that don’t seem related to a larger meaning. Adults want to “connect the dots” so to speak. Why the divorce, the job loss, the illness, the death of a spouse…of a child? Returning to college offers the opportunity for new experiences – for a different platform from which adults can ask questions and even express doubts  they otherwise wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing in other settings. Christian colleges do this well. In a secular university setting, there’s nothing outside of our life experiences to which we can connect. In a Christian college, our students find that a loving and purposeful God resides above our disappointments. Meaning is found in our connection with Him.

I’ve noticed that adults seem to find “community” in their return to college, so I offer “a search for belonging” as an additional motivator for returning to college. At Belhaven, community happens through the relationships we build with our adult students. We teach, advise, listen to, and most of all, pray for our students. God has created us to be social creatures, yet we adults struggle to rise above our feelings of aloneness in the world. The answer to what, at times, feels like a solitary existence, is the connectivity we feel in an environment in which others actually care for us. At Belhaven we strive to build communities in which our students feel loved, accepted, and listened to. Relationships are top-of-mind with us.

If you’re an adult thinking about completing your college degree, here’s what I hope your takeaway will be from reading this post. You will benefit greatly from completing your degree. The development of your professional skills that results from your coursework will have a positive impact on your employer. The new job, promotion, or salary increase that may follow earning a college degree will result in measurable benefits for your family, community, and church. However, pursuing these outcomes aren’t the only reasons adults return to college. We want something more, and the benefits of finding one’s purpose, of understanding the “big picture,” and finding a caring community are definitely worth the pursuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Hope

“I can’t believe they would do that!”

“There is no way that is allowed!”

“I did nothing to deserve!”

“This is completely unfair!”

“I am so miserable!”

 

I have heard and said all of these things in many different seasons of life. Negativity has a way of drowning people in their sorrows. Studies have shown that constant negativity can aggravate depression within a person. But many of us still choose our negative attitudes. We feel like victims who are imprisoned by circumstance.

But this is not the lifestyle that God wants for us. We need to be living in Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. When we are negative, we steal these Godly gifts from ourselves.

I was reading a book recently and received a timely reminder that we always have the opportunity to choose my attitude. No matter if someone cuts me off on the road, we can choose to pray for the other driver. If the kids won’t do their chores, we can be patient to help them make better choices. If the busyness of work and school are overwhelming, we can choose to work diligently until we are out of time, then leave the work for another day.

Above all, remember: “when we run into problems and trials, we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).

Where Are You Headed? How Fast Are You Going?

 

Where are you going? Do you have a goal in mind? If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re in school at Belhaven or are considering starting. If so, then you must have an educational goal. What is it? To finish a degree that you started at some point? To start college for the first time as an adult?

After you determine your goal, the next step is to move forward! Take the step! How fast do you want to go? Are you thinking, “I need to do this in the shortest length of time possible. I need an accelerated program!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I need to pace myself while taking classes. I have so many responsibilities already!” At Belhaven you have both of those options.

If you are a current Belhaven adult student, you may be thinking, “Yes, I’m in an accelerated program, and I feel the speed! My world is spinning with all the things I have to do. School. Work. Family. Church. Maybe I should slow down or take a break.” If that’s you, we understand. Life can become overwhelming at times. If that’s your situation, please talk to your Student Services staff and get their advice. We want to help you reach your goal. We’re here to serve you.

In the middle of it all, don’t forget your goal! Will a degree help your life? Will it help your family, your children? Keep your end goal in front of you. Keep moving forward. One step at a time. Remember the tortoise. Speed isn’t as important as reaching the finish line!!!

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Phil. 3:13

Your hard work will pay off!

 

This verse reminds me about endurance and that hard work eventually pays off. So many times, life throws a curveball and plans to finish a project, a task, or even a college degree, can get put on the “back burner” of the priority list.

Adult students have so many obstacles and so many distractions, during their college experience, it can sometimes be overwhelming… but the key is to stay focused, take one day at a time, and never give up!

As you are encountering distractions in your educational journey that cause you think about quitting or taking a break, here are a few things to consider or remember:

  1. Remember your WHY! (What prompted you in the very beginning of this journey to pursue finishing your degree??)
  2. Stay focused on your ultimate end-goal! (How will your life change if you continue to do the same thing, and you do not finish this degree?)
  3. Consider who may be watching you? (You never know who in your class or in your circle of friends or family may be watching to see how far you go… your choices will not only affect you- but those watching, as well.)
  4. Who is your support network? (Do you have someone to hold you accountable in this journey- to support and motivate you when times are tough?  If not… find that person, today!  Offer to be someone else’s accountability partner- so you can motivate each other until the end.)
  5. Ask for help! (Belhaven Staff and Faculty are your cheerleaders… come see us if you need help, or just want us to pray with you or encourage you, we care about you!)
  6. Take it one day and one course at a time! (Try not to overwhelm yourself on focusing on ALL of the work, but look at your degree plan, as a marathon… slow, steady, and consistent. You will eventually cross the finish line…so stay on course!)

Changing your life for the better is a good thing… it may not be easy…but if you commit and stay focused, you will finish and you will be blessed! I have never heard anyone ever tell me in my seventeen years in higher education that they regret finishing their degree.  I have only heard, them say… they should have finished it- a lot sooner!  Timing is everything…  It is your season, your time… to make the most of this opportunity!  Some words of encouragement- to those struggling to stay focused… Pace yourself, pray for yourself, and prepare yourself for the finish line!  You can do it!!!

Competitiveness and the Creator

(Reposted with permission from Dr. Corey Latta, scholar, teacher, author, poet, minister, and friend.)

I’ve found that in academia, writing, and in ministry (most all other areas of life fit this bill, too) a thick cloud of competitiveness hovers over everything. One writer feels injured by the publications of another. The size of one Pastor’s church becomes the envy of ministers from neighboring churches. We see the teaching jobs our peers land as the jobs we didn’t get.

There are several ingredients to this kind of unhealthy competition. A pinch of insecurity, a dash of ambition, an ounce of misplaced identity, three cups of pride.

Unless the scholar, the writer, or the minister is ready to face these vices and flaws within himself, the problem of being unhealthily competitive will only compound as each new day will, to the “injured” artist or cleric, mean some new rejection.

I do think, beyond what goes into toxic competitiveness, which is a kind of self love, we might best fight this ego driven impulse with the kind of deliberate generosity only found in an othered directed love. Specifically, a love for two objects: the Creator and the created.

I must remind myself that I create because the Creator made me to. And that to begrudge the rewards or celebrate the failures of someone else’s art is to trod on the gift of creativity, and more importantly, the great gift Giver. I must love the Father of creativity. And if I love the Creator, I’ll see my fellow scholars, writers, and ministers not as competitors but as cocreators, laborers in the same union, members of the same guild, coinheritors of creation. This is generosity, and it should be the aim of every artist.

And with creation itself—from the academic article to the novel to the sermon—I must remain enamored. Only when we love the created will we celebrate those who create. It’s our love for good writing that will free us from selfish jealousy of who wrote it. It’s our desire to see universities filled with good scholars and teachers that will prompt us to praise God when another scholar fills that academic post that we eyed.

Love the Creator and His subcreators. Champion the created, being particularly mindful to rejoice over creations from others’ hands. And from love for God and for your cocreaters, do the kind of good, steady, unique work that only you were made to do.

Ultimately, it’s the act of creating itself, done in love, that will do the transformative work of turning the self-stained rags of competitiveness into the divine fleece of generosity.

Lessons from Father Abraham

Genesis 12 begins the story of Abram, a man called by God to undertake a difficult journey to a foreign land with limited instructions and little detail.

Abram (Abraham) ended up listening and obeying God. He had his faith tested and strengthened along the way and was ultimately used by God to build a great nation, Israel, through whom God revealed and accomplished salvation for all peoples.

Like Abraham, adult learners are called by God to take a difficult journey through uncharted territory for the eventual benefit of the peoples we are called to serve. We have a lot in common with Abraham.

a. Abraham’s call initially consisted of only one set of directions (Genesis 12:1):  go. It’s alright for us not to see the full picture of our educational journey. We “go” one class at a time, trusting God to lead us along the way.

b. The call required courage. Abraham came to understand the limits of his cognitive understanding. Similarly, intellectual work challenges us and forces us to reckon with what we don’t know as we arrive at a place of deeper wisdom and insight.

c. The call required obedience. Abraham wrestled with some of God’s commands (see Gen. 22). While God does not call us to a blind obedience to everything a professor tells us, we are expected to run the race set before us. This includes reading and following a syllabus!

d. The call involved his family. Abraham’s family was implicated in all that his journey entailed. We, too, have family, friends, and communities who partner with us in the good and bad we experience. We are not alone – and this can be both an encouragement and an ongoing responsibility that tests our strength.

e. The call requires sacrifice. Abraham yielded his time and stood to lose his earthly wealth in fulfilling his call. Similarly, we’re making an investment in God’s Kingdom by investing in our degrees. This means we sometimes forego other opportunities and pleasures in pursuit of God’s call.

f. The call was ultimately not about Abraham. Although he experienced the blessings of obeying God, Abraham’s story is really less about Abraham and more about how God was using Abraham to serve others. Our academic credentials are really tools for service. We should never lose sight of those we’re called to serve.

You didn’t think you had much in common with Abraham, did you? Are there are other biblical characters from whom you can draw encouragement along your journey?

The Confessions of a Professor

So often adult learners are hesitant to go to their professor for help for fear that they might appear uninformed.  After all, it has been so many years since being in school that the adult learner is unsure that they made the right decision to even return to school.  As a professor working with adult learners, here are a few things I wish students knew.

  1. We really want to help students.  Yes we have classroom standards and we expect you to do the work to get the grades.  But we long to help students who have questions or are struggling with the course material.
  2. The assigned reading in the text books is really important. So many students think they can go through a course without even opening the textbook and some even brag they didn’t bother to get the textbook for the class.  Only so much material can be covered in class.  The textbook is a rich source of information about the subject or focus of the course, we really want you to take the time to read the material.
  3. Please read instructions for the assignments before doing them wrong. So often adult learners fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent and skim through the instructions for assignments, ultimately doing them wrong.  They waste more time having to redo them. If only they had taken time to read the instructions before launching into the assignment and doing it wrong.  If there are questions about the assignment after reading the instructions, then ask questions.
  4. APA is a pain. Yes, even professors have to go back and review APA guidelines because every little detail is so important.  Learning to write scholarly papers is part of the learning process that adult learners need to embrace.
  5. We know you have many outside responsibilities and we do care. When an adult learner commits to their education, professors expect students to make their education a priority.  There is a time commitment to learning and school should not fit in around the edges as time permits.  School needs to be front and center on the priority list.  The course assignments are designed to maximize your learning and all have purpose.  The texts have been selected with care and should enhance your learning.

So, adult learners, please know that professors want to help you and are willing to answer your questions but you also need to make a commitment to your education to maximize your success in school.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership and Christian ideology go hand in hand. I would like to pose two questions you can ask yourself to help test if you are leading in an area fundamental to our faith.

When faced with a dilemma in your workplace or classroom, do you find yourself saying that is not my problem he/she can handle this or do you communicate with others on how you can help in solving this issue? A servant leader desires to work with others for resolution.

Can you say to yourself after a certain time period in your life that you’ve grown, become more independent, and feel a sense of peace afterward Servant leaders gain true peace by understanding that Christ served them first and they want to lead by this example and therefore gain independence and peace.

Being a servant leader means jumping in and being willing to help in all circumstances without thought of self-promotion or gratification.  These will occur organically but fall short when intentions are insincere. Servant leaders are humble in their quest for knowledge, which leads to growth, independence, and freedom.