The Transformational Nature of Adult Higher Education

In his book Center Church, Tim Keller describes several models of cultural engagement or descriptions of the various ways that we Christians view culture and our role in it. Keller writes that the transformationalist model “engages culture largely through an emphasis on Christians pursuing their vocations from a Christian worldview and thereby changing culture.”
I believe that Christian adult higher education is transformational and, for those of us who work in this field, Keller’s words should be encouraging. As we teach Christian worldview in the classroom and, as staff, model it in our interactions with students, we are impacting people who will, in turn, impact their workplaces, homes, places of worship, and communities with a biblically-informed transformational perspective.
Jesus describes his followers as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. These are powerful metaphors that instruct believers to flavor, preserve, and give direction to the world that God loves and is in the process of redeeming. This is the encouraging work of Christian adult higher education – to be salt and light to our students and to provide an educational experience that prepares them for that role in their various spheres of influence. The encouragement for our students is that your diligent work in the classroom is preparing you to be a participant in God’s kingdom vision for the world…His people “pursuing their vocations from a Christian worldview and thereby changing culture.”

Focus On The Right Thing!

I recently took my 15 year old grandson, Josh, on vacation with us to Washington DC. Guess who had just gotten his learner’s permit and wanted to drive. Since I am the ‘cool grandpa’, Josh got to drive – on the interstate when traffic was not too heavy.

When he first got behind the wheel, I noticed he had a tendency to weave a little. After a couple of minutes, I asked him how he was maintaining his lane. He said, “I am judging where I am by the white strip on the side of the highway and the broken line that separates the lanes.” He was steering the car based on where he was instead of where he wanted to go.

Very calmly (depending on whom you ask), I suggested he begin to watch the horizon and drive toward it without paying so much attention to the dividing lines. Once he began to trust that technique, his control of the car improved greatly and the ride was so much smoother. His confidence in his driving ability was at an all-time high!

This reminded me of the Apostle Peter when he walked on water with Jesus in Matthew 14. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on the water. But when Peter noticed the high winds and rough waves, he began to sink! Did you know that the same wind and waves were present while Peter was both walking and sinking? So, what made the difference in Peter’s success? Peter’s focus!

What a great life principle for the busy adult who is pursuing their degree while maintaining their professional life, their family life, their church life and their sanity! The ultimate goal is to earn the degree. As long as the focus is on that goal the distractions of life that could derail that pursuit can be navigated. But when the focus shifts from the goal to the distractions, the circumstances can be overwhelming!

The encouragement is to maintain the focus on finishing the degree no matter what is going on around you. Life is going to happen. Keeping your focus on the goal of your degree will enable you to handle the challenges of life and earn your degree at the same time!

Be Today Who You Desire to be Tomorrow: 3 ways to insure you reaching your desired career

1st – Invest in yourself
Do you have a tendency to put yourself on the back burner? Do not worry, you are not alone. Many people do including wives, husbands, parents, grandparents, sons, and daughters in order to take care of their loved ones. This is what we are supposed to do, however we are not supposed to neglect ourselves in the process. If we take better care of ourselves then we are able to better take care of others, right? Makes sense! Many times we are tricked into thinking just the opposite. We think we have to neglect ourselves, our needs, our wants and our desires. Continue pushing hard in school, sometimes it will be tough but you must, invest in yourself, YOU are worth it!!!!
2nd- Couple Your Education with Your Work Experience
Working in education I have heard time and time again that people have numerous years of experience, but cannot get that promotion or pay grade they want due to not having a degree. I can personally testify that after I completed my degree I gained an array of options pertaining to my employment, one of which I hold today as Director at Belhaven Houston. I felt many years ago that God was moving me to get my degree. I personally did not start college until my late twenties. I am so glad I did because otherwise I would not be encouraging you today to consider doing the same. If you felt the Lord lead you here to get your degree, go for it with all of your might, and when you get weary, call us we are here to help!!!
3rd- Understand Your Value
Too many times we go into an interview thinking, “I need this job.” The demands of bills and debt cause us sometime to settle for jobs that we would not want otherwise, but feel obligated to take due to necessity. What if we changed our way of thinking and decided to not settle for anything less than what we want. Instead of letting the employer interview us, what if we interviewed them? Just changing this perspective going into the interview will boost yourself confidence. Know your value, the asset that you are going to be to the company you are interviewing for and articulate it in such a way that you are not cocky, but confident. Whatever you do, do not settle for less than God’s best!!!

dowhatulove

Active Faith

“And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”

Matthew 14:28-29 KJV

Have you ever thought about why Peter wanted to get out of the boat? Why did he all of a sudden think he could walk on water? Well, you might say, “It’s because he saw many of the miracles performed by Jesus.  For instance, when Jesus opened the blind eyes and cleansed the lepers.” Yes, that’s true. But, the other disciples in the boat saw the same things. Why didn’t they want to get out?

Peter understood that it was his time. He stirred his faith up. He believed at that moment that he could do what God placed in his heart. Jesus said, “Peter, do you want to get out of that boat?” He said, “Yes, I do.” Jesus replied, “Well, come on out.” Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Peter, stay in that boat. Don’t you know I’m the Son of God?” No, He said, “Peter, I like your attitude of faith. I like the fact that you believe you can do great things.”

Today, we should have that same kind of boldness! Start believing that your time is here! All the dreams that you have, those desires that you thought would never work out, it’s time to start believing again. So when you grab your flip-flops and beach towels take some time to reflect on what God has put in your heart.  Then activate your faith and step out of the boat. It’s your time!  Maybe you started but stopped-out of your courses at Belhaven.  Perhaps, it became too difficult and you felt you could not manage it all.  Whatever the situation is, ask yourself the question “Would God put it in my heart and not give me the power to accomplish it?”  Whatsoever God has placed in your heart, it’s time to be found doing it. He never said it would be easy…but His grace is sufficient.  We were created for good works and good works we must do.

How’s it going? Smoothly or not?

Virginia M. Garrison, M.Ed., Director of Retention Services

 

This month the spring semester is coming to an end, and summer is quickly approaching. How are you doing in your courses? Are things running smoothly for you with no interruptions or disappointments? Are you laughing at that thought? If you are like most of us adults, there is always something happening that we didn’t expect! That’s part of life!

The important thing to remember is that no matter what happens, we need to keep focused on our goals in order to succeed. There may be setbacks along the way, but be encouraged. This too shall pass… hang in there. Remember why you began this journey! It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop! Keep moving forward toward earning your degree. It is an investment in your future.

At Belhaven University, we understand that many adult students have situations to arise that may discourage them. We want to assure you that you are not alone! There have been many others who have been concerned about being successful in school while working, raising a family, and handling many other responsibilities and the unexpected interruptions of life… and they have succeeded! We have thousands of adult graduates to prove it!

Our faculty and staff members on each of our campuses are here to help you. We will work with you through every step of the process from entrance all the way to graduation! If something happens that seems like a roadblock, talk to us. You are not alone, and you don’t need to be afraid of the unexpected.

As a Christian institution, we also believe that the Lord will be with you on your educational journey if you believe in Him, depend on Him, and lean on Him. He has promised to be with you, no matter what your circumstances are. Trust Him to help you!

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.  Isaiah 43:2

I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.  Phil. 4:13

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

 

 

 

 

Why Are You Enrolled In School?

There are many reasons for going back to school. A recent article from Eduventures* states that 40% of adult students are enrolled in school to advance their careers. There is another 30% who want to finish what they started some time ago. Those searching for a different career field make up 20% of the adult learners, and another 10% are lifelong learners interested in taking course work of interest to them.

Behind those reasons for going back to school is an individual story that each adult learner can tell. At Belhaven, we value those individual stories, and we are pleased to work with each student to accomplish his/her personal goals. Often the road to completing what was started is strewn with obstacles that at times seem impossible to overcome.

I remember the student who lived in her car but faithfully came to class. She graduated two years ago and is going strong in a new career. What a joy is was to work with her during her time at Belhaven. There was the military student who was called up to active duty. He did not let that stop his progress toward his goal of an MBA and he switched his studies to our online program. There are also very happy stories. We had two students who met and married while attending classes at Belhaven.

Belhaven is a special haven for adult students seeking to achieve an educational goal. Our faculty and staff are devoted to the success of each individual student. We recently conducted some focus groups with our students and found that they do feel valued as individuals and the one thing we heard loud and clear is that the Christian foundation of our curriculum is our crown jewel. Many told us how their spiritual lives have changed because of the Christian values expressed in every class.
Wherever you are in your journey and whatever has motivated you to pursue your education, we applaud you and stand with you all the way through graduation.

*Meet Today’s Adult Learners: A Guide to Segmentation and Storytelling www.eduventures.com

Traveling On The Sea In Ships

I was recently introduced to Psalm 107 – a Psalm of restoration and hope if there ever was one. In a nutshell, the psalm is divided into sections, each describing a sequence of (1) brokenness, (2) a calling out to God, and (3) deliverance by God. I was especially drawn to verses 23-32, partly because of what I feel is its application to working adults (and, therefore, our students), and partly because of what it teaches regarding suffering.
For all of our students, life happens while they are pursuing their degrees. For some of them, life happens with a vengeance – a child develops a terminal illness, a job is lost, a spouse leaves for “greener pastures” with little notice and no real explanation. I could go on and on. So, with that context, here’s Psalm 107: 23-32 (NLT):
Some traveled on the sea in ships,
and carried cargo over the vast waters.
24 They witnessed the acts of the LORD,
his amazing feats on the deep water.
25 He gave the order for a windstorm,
and it stirred up the waves of the sea.
26 They reached up to the sky,
then dropped into the depths.
The sailors’ strength left them because the danger was so great.
27 They swayed and staggered like a drunk,
and all their skill proved ineffective.
28 They cried out to the LORD in their distress;
he delivered them from their troubles.
29 He calmed the storm,
and the waves grew silent.
30 The sailors rejoiced because the waves grew quiet,
and he led them to the harbor they desired.
31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his loyal love,
and for the amazing things he has done for people!
An adult student is trying to make a better life for herself and her family by going back to school (carrying a cargo over the vast waters). As she makes her way through her coursework, she begins to see the goodness of God in her life (witness his amazing feats) as what she thought was not doable for her (returning to college) now seems doable. But then, things change. Severe trials enter her life. God gives the order for a windstorm and it blows incessantly (It’s interesting that God ordered the trials. Read How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D.A. Carson to begin to wade through that one). She mentions her need for prayer in class and to campus staff. She cries to the Lord in her trouble, and He delivers her from her distress. The noise of the storm quietens (or maybe God’s comforting voice becomes louder), things settle down a bit, and she realizes that, even though the skies may still be cloudy, God has brought her to her to a place of calm waters.
The beauty of the adult Christian higher education community is the privilege to walk with our students in their difficult times. It’s not that the whole process of returning to college one huge trial. As a former adult student, there is joy in the journey – much joy! But, life happens. And when it happens to a student who has added college to an already busy life, things can get really complicated. As education professionals and followers of Christ, it’s our calling to steady our students when they “sway and stagger” and rejoice with them when they reach “the harbor they desired.”

A Beacon of Light

As Christians, often times, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day that we lose focus on the fact that we are handling God’s most precious gift – the human life.  We could learn a thing or two from Moses and how he treated the people of God.  We must be careful to treat each other as we should and not as we feel.  This truth became apparent several months ago when we encountered an emergency with one of our students.

Call 911!  Call his wife! Meet at the Emergency Room!  Hold the baby! It’s after-hours… but he’s our student!  In a time when he was most vulnerable, everyone raced to his rescue.  The student was completely baffled by the care and concern of everyone.  You see, his prior disposition had caused everyone to deal guardedly with him.

The next day, to our surprise, the student brought lunch and a thank you card for the staff to express his gratitude.  We were flabbergasted!  It wasn’t until we took the time to get to know the student that we begin to understand him. We had always reacted to situations but never really understood this student.  After the incident, he explained to us that he had suffered a traumatic head injury early on in life which severely affected how he dealt with his emotions. Like many adult learners, this student was bearing the burden of “life”.  He attended graduate classes, carried the weight of taking care of a wife and new  born baby while at the same time worked day in and day out to manage his own business.  He was overwhelmed!  But how would we know, if we don’t ask?  We’ve heard the old saying…you can’t judge a book by its cover…but many times we do.  It was unfortunate that this incident happened.  However, it brought about a realization that “people (students) don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care”.  We must be genuinely concern about the wellbeing of others.

This student has become one of our greatest proponents.  He has referred several students to Belhaven and now when we see him, he is wearing a smile.  The care and concerned experienced on that day left a lasting-positive impression on this student.  We have been given a special charge in Christian Higher Education…to be that beacon of light as we point individuals in the right direction.  Students should feel our prayers and support constantly as they maneuver their way through life.

 

 

Frozen

You may be thinking I am referring to the weather. Depending on where you physically live in the Belhaven network, frozen may be a good descriptor this time of year.

However in this case, I am referring to the Disney animated movie Frozen. If you enjoy Disney animated classics and films, or have any children in your life including grandchildren, nieces and nephews; or neighbors and friends children too, you are familiar with this phenomenal hit.

One of the themes in the movie has to do with the unique gifts and talents of one of the characters, Elsa the Snow Queen. In the beginning of the movie, Elsa is afraid to show her gifts and talents. She is afraid of being different. She is afraid people will judge her. She decides to hide herself and her gifts – even from her sister Anna. By the end of the movie, she realizes it is okay to use her unique gifts and talents for good and that people will accept her and appreciate her.

Have you ever experienced this at work, in class, at home, or in your community activities? Been afraid to share your unique gifts and talents? Afraid that people will judge you or laugh at you because you are different or special? Do you ever compare yourself to someone else wishing you had their talents? You each have special gifts that are all your own.

Each year our President, Dr. Roger Parrott selects a verse of the year. This year’s verse is Peter 4:10. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” The good news is that God made each of us special with unique gifts and talents to SHARE. The key word is SHARE. Use them (your gifts) to serve one another. I challenge each of you to discover and use your unique gifts, talents and strengths to serve one another. As it relates to your classes, you never know when your gifts and talents will truly help someone else.

I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU

“Mama, I want to be like you when I get bigger.” These words were spoken by my five-year-old daughter who was watching me in the mirror as I finished getting dressed for work. Though these words warmed my heart, these same words made me slightly uncomfortable. At the time, I was in a mad rush to head out the door because I had overslept. I was preoccupied sorting through my mental to-do list for the day and became completely overwhelmed just hours into a brand new day. I thought to myself, “This is not how I want her to be”. It was in that moment I knew I needed to take time for self-reflection. How can I self-improve especially since my little girl wants to be like me? Am I really the person that she sees on the outside? Have I done everything possible to set an example that shows who I truly am?
Self-reflection involves asking yourself thought-provoking questions so that you can develop a deeper level of understanding about yourself. The key to a successful self-evaluation is to be honest with yourself. I find it necessary to warn you that self-reflections can be uncomfortable and downright painful, but it is essential to change. Here are just a few questions I used to perform my self-evaluation.
• Are you at peace with yourself?
• Are you making the same mistakes over and over again?
• What habits would you like to quit? Why don’t you start today?
• Do you live for others or for yourself?
• How important is social approval for you?
• What is true happiness for you?
• If you could free yourself from one burden in your life, what would it be?
In this New Year, instead of making unattainable New Year resolutions, I encourage you to take a minute to self-reflect so you can become a better you because there may be someone who wants to be just like you!