The Paradox of Cultural Engagement

Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 5:13-14, calls his followers to be salt and light in the circumstances to which he has called us. We are to flavor, preserve, and illuminate our families, communities, and workplaces – to imitate, as much as possible, characteristics of his kingdom in our various spheres of influence. On the other hand, the apostle Paul writes that we are not to be conformed to this present world, but to be separate from it (Romans 12:2).

At the surface, the idea of cultural engagement as described in the gospel of Matthew seems to be at odds with the concept of separation from the world as presented by Paul in Romans 12. How can I be salt and light to the culture in which God has placed me and be separate from it at the same time?

Those who are called to follow Christ and who want to make a difference in this world will wrestle with this apparent paradox. The way we approach the issue of cultural engagement will ultimately impact how we carry our Christ’s great commission, so our conclusions are of extreme importance. Will we approach our culture as an entity created and loved by God (but in need of redemption) or as something to occasionally encounter but mostly retreat from in order to enhance our own personal holiness? Is it one or the other or somehow both?

The answers to these questions are not simple and, in reality, represent, for the serious Christian, an ongoing exploration. In Romans 12:2, Paul labels this inquiry a “renewing of your mind” (New English Translation). So, rather than defining separation from the culture as embracing a list of restrictions, Paul defines it as an intellectual process that leads to our discovery of God’s will for our lives (verse 2) – what it’s like for us, in our particular circumstances, to engage our culture for Christ and his kingdom.

Although there are many ways to renew one’s mind in preparation for kingdom service, university studies provide a depth and richness perhaps not found in other venues. At Belhaven University, regardless of one’s area of study (there are many from which to choose), the exploration of how a biblical worldview informs the ways in which we engage God’s world is of primary importance, especially for non-traditional adult students who are deeply entrench in family, community, and career. As stated on our website, our programs “are taught from a Christian worldview perspective and are guided by the mission to prepare students academically and spiritually to serve Christ Jesus in their careers, in human relationships, and in the world of ideas.” At Belhaven, our students learn of Christ and how to apply his teachings holistically to a culture in need of biblical flavor and illumination – to “approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”

 

 

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

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We are all fighters. And we are all fighting battles on multiple fronts. Some of us are fighting to keep our jobs. Others are fighting corporate skirmishes. Still others are slaying imaginary dragons living in our children’s closet. We feel like we are pounding away. Sometimes, we even feel that we are winning the fight. At other times, the monsters in our head keep us lonely and depressed. Regardless of what it is, we all fight for what we believe to be right.

 

But you have fought to be here. You are a student at Belhaven University where you are striving to attain a degree that will improve your life in many ways. The trick is to remember what you are fighting for, and to stay in the fight. I heard it best from a mentor who told me, “Just keep fighting. Hold your head up and keep working hard. You’ll make it.”

 

Remember that at the end of the day, Jesus has already won the most important fight. He expects you to strive to do your best. Fight! He has already won your battle!

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Harvest Celebration!

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Harvest is a time of celebration! Those who work in Higher Education know how much hard work goes into the spring and summer months for the planning and preparation of Fall Enrollment. The time has now come to celebrate with our new and current students…. But we must never give up!  Every season is an opportunity to work hard and plant seeds for the future!  God has called us to help others and to minister to one another.  Fall is a wonderful time to reflect on all the work that we have done for His Kingdom… and I’m often reminded of the beauty of how the Lord uses nature in fall to mellow us all after the long and hot summer.

BC Forbes once said “It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the spring, who reaps a harvest in autumn.”

Whether we are working hard on the job….or diligently studying in class… our hard work will pay off, if we do not give up. In Galatians 6:9… it says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  As easy as it seems sometimes, to just quit or take a long break… consistency will truly pay off in the end and we will get to enjoy the benefits of our labor.

Encouraging ourselves and others to stay the course can be easier said than done; however, holding one another accountable and staying focused on the end result is key to finishing a long project, a huge task, or completing a course in school.

This fall… Enjoy the benefits of your labor and rejoice in knowing God is using you for His purpose and your hard work will pay off!

 

-Erica Johnson, Director of Admission and Student Services -Belhaven Memphis Campus

Want Success? Don’t Give Up!

SUCCESS.

Don’t we all want it? What does it take to succeed? Many people have tried and failed NUMEROUS times before they finally achieved success. What was their secret?

Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  

Winston Churchill:  “Never… never… never give up!”

Charlie Brown also gives us that very same advice: Never give up

Where are YOU in your journey to achieve your educational goals? Have you tried to get there before but just never were able to finish?  Are you right in the middle or near the end of your program? The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson. Don’t give up in the middle.

How are you feeling right now? Motivated? Tired? Excited? Determined? Discouraged? Your Belhaven faculty and staff are here to help you succeed! Let’s talk about it! We want to encourage you and see you reach your goal because OUR goal is YOUR success!


Be confident. Trust God every step of the way. He will give you the strength you need to complete your journey!

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“He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” (Phil.1:6) 

   

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Tempus fugit! (Time flies!)

One of the challenges adult and graduate students face is finding the time for the school-related tasks they’ve got to get done.

24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 84,000 seconds – this is all we’re given each day. Too bad time doesn’t stand still. In fact, even as you’re reading this blog post, time is flying!

Here are 5 tips for making the most of your time as an adult or graduate learner:

1. Don’t neglect your spiritual life.  This one is a given. Remember, we’re spiritual beings having a human experience. Unconfessed sin resulting in fear, worry, anger, resentment, or bitterness will dull your focus. A spiritual life in disrepair is dead weight you don’t have to carry. Cling to the cross of Christ and invest time there first and foremost. You’ll be rewarded with multiple minutes for every one you spend in prayer!

2. Use The Pomodoro Technique. Moving from the spiritual to the physical: It’s important to realize that your brain has its limitations. To maximize your study and paper-writing time, try working for 45 minutes straight – no stopping, no breaks! – and then taking a 15 minute break. Focus hard, unplug. Wash, rinse, repeat.

3. Use a white noise or other noise cancellation software. Background conversations and other aural interruptions ruin your focus. Try putting on a set of headphones and use a white noise app from ITunes.  Most such software is free. You will be amazed at how your concentrating power instantly improves. What once took 20 minutes might now take only 10.

4. Lift your heavy weight when you’re fresh. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. Know when during the day you work best at your most difficult task, be it writing, reading, note taking, synthesizing information, etc. Save your busy work – responding to emails and attending to minor administrative tasks, for example – for when your brain is fried and you can go on auto-pilot.

5. Watch what you eat. Blue Bell Cookies n’ Cream ice cream goes down easy for me, but my sugar high lasts 10 minutes and them I’m depressed. Try to stay “lean” when you’re in study mode. Eat fruits and vegetables – watch the bread. Stay hydrated. If you can keep your blood sugar level, your concentration will remain stable over longer periods of time.

Alright, there you have it. Time is ticking. Get after it!

What If……

JoAnn recently shared the following story with me, and it got me to thinking about all the issues adult students face when they go back to school. She was taken out of her home at the age of 12 because of an abusive mother. She lived in a group home for a while but didn’t really fit in. As a result, she lived on the streets with no hope of a bright future.
One day, she asked the question, “What if I went back to school so I could get a job?”
She found a program and finished her GED. Belhaven University supported the program she went through and encouraged her to consider college.Again, she asked the question, “What if I went to college so I could better my life?” She began at Belhaven but soon found out she was pregnant. As a single mom, it was all she could do to work at her low-paying, part-time job and take care of her child. As a result, she dropped out. That was a sad day for her, but she told me she would never forget the kindness that the staff at Belhaven had shown her.
Fast forward 6 years, and once again JoAnn asked the question: “What if I finished my degree so I could work for more than minimum wage?” She has now enrolled in school again with a bright hope for the future.
How many like JoAnn or (fill in the blank ) are out there asking the same question, “What if…….?”
Many of our students have similar stories, and many of their journeys started with “What if….?” Think about the possibilities when you fill in the end of that question. I am sure many of you who are currently attending classes are tempted to let life’s issues creep in and snatch your dreams of an education. You might be surprised where your journey will end when you start it with “What if…..?”

Your Brand Identity

Have you ever wondered who Coca Cola is? Or, thought what is a McDonalds? Probably not. Their brand identity is strong. They know who they are, they carefully create and articulate that information, and we come to know them by the information that is communicated.

At the same time, have you considered you have a brand identity as well? Your brand identity is how you want to be perceived and should reflect the value of what you bring to the audience. Here’s the great thing…you are in control of your brand identity!

I have one of those fancy fitness trackers and I love it. It prompts me to take the stairs or go the long way to a meeting. But, plenty of times I still choose to take the elevator and chances are good I’m going to run into someone on that elevator who introduces themselves and asks me who I am or what I do. Being able to articulate who I am in that 30 seconds is crucial. It will certainly be the only first impression opportunity I have to do so. By preparing for this in advance I am more likely to accurately communicate my brand identity and have more control over how I am perceived in that first impression.

As an adult learner, perhaps you are in the process of seeking a new job. Maybe you just want to position yourself a bit better at your current place of employment. In each regard, you would benefit from having your own personal elevator speech prepared. You never know who you are going to be standing beside in the elevator, or the coffee line, or at the dry cleaners. Use that opportunity to share your brand identity. Besides, you never know where it might lead you!

I recently read an article in Journal of Interactive Marketing in which the authors shared “the premise for personal branding is that everyone has the power to be their own brand and a person’s main job is to be their own marketer” (Labrecque, Markos & Milne, 2011, para. 11). Wow, what an opportunity!

I believe a few intentional steps in planning can help you be prepared to present your personal brand identity:

  1. Who are you? – You would think this is obvious, but sometimes being tongue tied gets the best of us! Clearly state your name – are you Robert, Bob, Rob…? Decide this in advance.
  2. What can you offer/what do you do? – This is not your job title. Try framing your job title in terms of what you do. My job title may be Director of Admissions, but I prefer to say “I help adult students realize their dreams”.
  3. Provide a hook to learn more – what is unique about you or what you do that someone may like to learn more about?
  4. Practice makes perfect – you want your speech to be concise, interesting, and memorable. Practice it over and over and don’t be afraid to make changes. You will find you are more likely to remember it and less likely to stumble over words like “um” or “uh” with practice.
  5. Ask for a takeaway – “Could I give you my business card”? Or perhaps, “Could we connect on LinkedIn?” are great ways to share your information and gain information for further networking with your audience.

 

Labrecque, L.I., Markos, E., & Milne, G.R. (2011). Online personal branding: Processes, challenges, and implications. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 25(1), 37-50. doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2010.09.002

 

Amanda Young is Director of Admissions at Belhaven University, Atlanta

#orlandostrong

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For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

It has been amazing to see a city, state, country and world come together to serve and help each other in the wake of the horrific events in Orlando. Even though you may not live in Orlando or attend online classes through our Orlando campus, you may have a connection to the Orlando community. You may have visited Orlando. You may have family in Orlando. Our thoughts and prayers for healing continue for the victims, families, first responders, volunteers, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, the list goes on. #orlandostrong defines this community.

Many of our Belhaven students are part of the group of unsung heroes – the volunteers who immediately asked, “How can I help?” and were out in the field serving others. These selfless acts started me thinking about our Belhaven community. You may not realize it until you need something, but you have an incredible community of resources available to help and support you as a student – whether you are online or on campus. The faculty, staff, administration, and fellow students are all part of your Belhaven community, and invested in your success as a student. In an online environment, there are times when you may feel you are out there by yourself. I encourage you to reach out to other members of your Belhaven community for help, and to share thoughts and ideas. Asking questions and sharing ideas is also an important part of the learning. As we wind down this academic year, and look forward to our next year, I encourage you to reflect on the verse for our past academic year.

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My Brother’s Keeper

From our friend Sandra Kelly, Director of Student Services at Belhaven’s Jackson LeFleur Campus:

Dear beloved, as you read this blog, I want you to know one important thing, “You are my brother and sister in Christ and I am yours…” According to society, we are supposed to be in competition with one another, down-talking, jealous of and hating each other. However, as men and women of God and fellow members of the Belhaven University Family, a Christian principled institution, instead of operating the way the world expects, we are to walk in love towards one another and keep each other uplifted. We are our brothers’ keepers.

Today I prayed for you, my brother and sister! I prayed for those who lost sleep last night as you paced the floor wondering how your bills are going to get paid. 

I prayed for you, my brother and sister, as you battle anxiety, insecurities and loneliness, not only from a personal perspective, but educationally. It is so easy to become frustrated and stressed-out when all of our efforts at achieving greatness seem to falter. Situations like that seem problematic to us, but are just right for God. After all, our Abba is the “Problem Solver!”

Finally, I prayed for you, my brother and sister,  as you deal with past hurts, pains, and perhaps forgiveness, I prayed for you to be released, and for you to release those hurts, that pain, those who transgressed against you. 

By now I know you’re thinking…..“But, you don’t even know me!” And you are right. I do not; however, I prayed for you, my brother and sister without calling your name….Why? Because I am your keeper! Isn’t that what I am supposed to do? That’s how things are supposed to be, right? Shouldn’t I be your keeper? As you being a spouse, parent, friend, church/community leader, and student, I should be there to encourage you when you need it.

After you have studied countless hours and still end up failing your test, shouldn’t I pick you up when you falter? Should not I be able to speak life into your situation? As a child of God, I have that obligation to do these things. As Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

As Christian brothers and sisters, we of all people must be keepers of one another. When you lean, know that I will be there standing beside you to lift you up. When you struggle in your classes, I will be there to encourage you every step of the way. When you cry, I will offer my sleeve to wipe your tears. When you talk, I will offer my ears to listen. When you need a comforting word, I will offer my voice as a vessel of God’s Word. When you are going through rough times, I will be standing in front of you to offer my arms for a hug. And when you need me to just be there, I will do that too. You will hear me saying, “Don’t give up on God, because He will not give up on you!” I will do all of these things….Why? Because I am my brother and sister’s keeper!

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Walking In

Two weeks ago, we were packing up our campus – preparing for the following day: moving day! I’ve never met anyone who likes to move. Given the choice between moving and having a root canal, I’ll take the root canal – gladly. However, the prospect that moving to a bright and shiny new facility would allow us to better serve our students was motivation enough. We were pumped and ready to pack. Just as we thought we couldn’t be more motivated, Joe walked in.

Joe is always walking in. Each evening when he walks into our campus, his hardy greetings seem to electrify the place. Joe walks into each office – into my office. Whatever is wrong with the day always gets a little better when Joe walks in.

As a non-traditional student, Joe is older than many of his millennial and Gen X classmates. As his instructor, I quickly found that Joe brought a lot of wisdom to the classroom and wasn’t shy to share it with us! Much has been written about generational differences these days. When Joe walked into my classroom, it became evident that there are more similarities than differences between us – that we’re all ultimately searching for the same things in life – confirmation that our lives matter: a sense of purpose.

We didn’t ask for student volunteers to help us prepare for the move, but, as I mentioned previously, Joe walked in – a May, 2016 graduate of Belhaven University (BS in Management) and newly enrolled graduate student (Master of Science in Leadership). We talked, laughed, packed, and all shared a meal together. A day that we had not looked forward to suddenly became a very good day.

The day after we packed for the move, Joe had a massive stroke. As of this writing, he is not doing well. Please pray for Joe. We don’t know if he will ever walk into our campus again – only God knows. A family member wrote the following: Joe was very proud of his work at Belhaven and learning with your organization gave him a great sense of purpose…thank you for that.

Of all the things that adult degree programs do for their students (better pay, opportunities for promotions, etc.), providing a student with “a great sense of purpose” represents our highest calling. Joe, and the adult students he represents, reminds us that amidst the discussion of career goals and academic planning, a much deeper longing motivates students when they walk through our doors.

I don’t think it’s an accident that adult students find purpose in programs like ours. The Christian worldview component has something to do with that for sure. There’s also the people component – the faculty, staff, and fellow students. We’re family, and its “family” that motivates a student to show up, to hang out, to walk into our offices –and ultimately into our lives. For this, we should be grateful.

 

 

Ed Pickel – Chattanooga/Dalton Campus