About Don Jones

Assistant VP of Enrollment and Student Services-Belhaven's Adult & Graduate Programs. Degrees from Logos Christian College & Graduate School, Bethel University (McKenzie, TN), University of Phoenix, Arkansas State University. Clergy in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, brigade XO of Military Police in the Mississippi State Guard, co-author of two textbooks and several peer-reviewed articles pertaining to business, education, and military history. Married with one daughter (Thunderbunny) and one foster son ("Redneck").

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.

He makes all things new

From our Director of Admission and Student Services in Memphis, Erica Johnson:

As we are watching the beautiful spring season unfold and bloom…the phrase “April Showers Bring May Flowers” comes to mind!  We are definitely experiencing an early spring… and it’s such a beautiful visual reminder of God’s new life and creation and His ability to produce glorious transformations not only in nature but also in the lives of His children.

When we are following God’s plan for our lives- it becomes clear where He plants seeds and where the fruits of His labor blossom.  While, seeds and trees require rain for nourishment and growth- sometimes the rain may come in the form of a spring thunderstorm which is par for the course of the changing of seasons- from winter into spring.  Those storms can be severe at times; however, once those storms have passed and the sun is shining brightly- we can really see the beauty of God’s creation.  As the trees bloom and bright colorful flowers blossom, each day becomes more and more beautiful.

God works in our lives the very same way…and often times, when we are facing our own personal storms… finding our safe haven in Christ and trusting him to take us to through the storm can not only test our faith, but tests our willingness to give up trying to control the outcome.  He tells us in His word:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7


When we are facing tough assignments or feel like we just can’t meet a deadline… We must remember that we are on our own personal journey and God is working in our lives…we just have to give Him control and trust completely in His plan.  When we are able to completely follow His lead, we will still continue to grow and be challenged; but when we come out on the other side, we will be transformed – and molded into the person God is shaping us to be.  Living by faith, allows us to continuously evolve in our character…and allows God’s handiwork to shine through- so we will have our story to tell and God can ultimately be glorified.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!  Corinthians 5:17


-Erica Johnson

he makes

The Wise Man

The Wise Man

Proverbs 17:10 advises that a reproof has more effect on a wise man than a severe beating has on a foolish man.

Each time I drop my (perfect, beautiful, intelligent) teenaged daughter at school, my parting words for her are “Love you! Remember, obey God and make good decisions today.” She smiles, rolls her eyes (she has heard it a thousand times) and jumps out to escape any more of Dad’s sage advice. And as she walks away, I silently pray that she will indeed live wisely.

I wish that I could report that I have learned and routinely practice the proverb I referenced above. Alas, too often while considering myself wise I do the most foolish things! And yes, life has a way of beating me up when I behave foolishly. I can look back on my life and see just a few key decisions that, had I chosen wisely, would have chartered a more fruitful course for me.

I suppose one of the greatest lessons in wisdom I have had to accept is that God puts people in my life to help me along the path of wisdom. My foolish pride has kept me from hearing their wisdom from time to time, but as I get older I am beginning to be able to hear. Oh that I would have heeded them as a young man! “Too soon old, too late wise.” NOW I get it!

I expected my mentors to be bigger than life, like in the movies. If God had put a Master Yoda or a Gandalf or perhaps a Lion King along my path I might (might!) have listened. But instead He put parents, siblings, friends, elders, bosses, coworkers, and especially teachers.

Teachers? I knew that teachers helped me gain knowledge, certainly, but wisdom?

And then I remembered all of the times I have reacted badly to a grade or corrective input regarding my schoolwork. “This isn’t fair! I turned in all of my work—where’s my ‘A’?” “How DARE he/she put that much red ink on my essay? Teacher just doesn’t like me…” and on and on, etc. etc. etc.

Yet, in all honesty, I learn more from my mistakes than from my successes. Having an instructor hurt my feelings and destroy my ego with a bunch of red ink made me a better writer, a more earnest critical thinker, a more studious student. Could it be that God placed that instructor in that classroom to reprove me? And, in so doing, he or she imparted something magical?

Proverbs 10:17 instructs me that he who heeds instruction is on the path of life. I like that. More importantly, I NEED that. In a world of darkness and death, someone who cares enough to impart life in the form of reproof is a gift from on high.

So, ego and hurt feelings notwithstanding, I strive to embrace wisdom. As the writer of proverbs stated so eloquently, I need to seek wisdom with all of my heart, shouting aloud for it and digging deep like searching for hidden treasure. And maybe take the advice of the wise ones God has blessed me with!

And so, if you encounter me from time to time with a bleeding ego, bruised feelings, or grousing about the injustice of the latest correction God has brought into my life, just remember (and maybe remind me) that God and His appointed teachers are molding me into a wise man.


Master Yoda

The Perfect Gift

From our friend Sandra Kelly, Director of Student Services for Belhaven’s LeFleur Campus

Like most people, Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love to decorate my home with lights, adorn my tree with ornaments and set up my animated nativity scene just above my fireplace. I enjoy driving around neighborhoods looking at lights and taking in all the beautiful Christmas decorations.  So, needless to say, I love everything about Christmas!

Now that Christmas Day has come and gone, I reflect on the past few weeks. The hustle and bustle, the parties and gifts, the songs and the greetings. And I examine myself: Did I really connect? Did I take a moment to ponder that Holy Night and that Special Gift? And will I truly try to carry the spirit of the season in my heart for the days, weeks, and months to come? Or do I set it aside along with the torn wrapping paper and empty boxes?

This time of year usually adds more tasks to my already full to-do list, and this year was no different. This month has been filled with loads of events to attend, a house to decorate, dishes to prepare for holiday parties, school Christmas programs to attend, church cantata rehearsals, and gifts to buy. With so much to do and so little time to do it, it is easy to miss the beauty of the season.

Each year, however, I refuse to allow stress to turn the Christmas season into a competition. To combat stress, one of the things I find joy in is listening to Christmas music. I know that there are numerous versions to some of the same classic songs. However, what I have learned to do is not solely focus on the tune, but rather listen to the words. When I do this, I find out that I just might hear the voice of God, and it may be the very therapy that I need in order to see Christmas as something more.

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite songs, “O Holy Night.” I love this song! Without a doubt, it is such a beautiful melody. Conversely, in verse one, hidden is one lyric that is a countenance of the Christmas spirit. “’Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth….”

A fulfilled promise lies true with the coming of Christ. Jesus’ birth is prophesied in the Old Testament, like Isaiah 7:14, which references Mary, the virgin’s birth. Miraculous is the birth as is the promise that presented humanity redemption. This was the first essential step towards Easter and the cross. So, when Christ was born, like this song says, as His children, we all revealed that we were worthy. Even in all of our mess (sin), God deemed us still important enough to keep His promise and come for our souls. I tell you what…..that is pure love!

So what does Christmas mean to me? It is all about God giving us His best, because He passionately loves us. Don’t believe me? Remember what John tells us in John 3:16: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son…” (NLT). Again, the Bible reassures His love in 1st John 4:9-10: “God showed how much He loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love” (NLT).

By now, you should be smiling! Does that not just warm your heart? As you go through the hectic holiday season where you are doing all that you can to keep up, you can be at peace, because you have already established worth and love in your Heavenly Father. Forgot to buy a gift? It’s fine! Messed up putting up the Christmas lights? That’s ok, too! Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth and the awareness that we are loved just the way we are.

I hope you enjoyed a Merry Christmas! And may the Joy of the season abide with you throughout the New Year!

Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree

From our friend Pete Deegan, Director of Admission and Student Services for Belhaven Houston:

The story of David and Goliath comes to mind whenever I face a difficult obstacle. However, more often than not, I relate more to the frightened Israelites who looked up at Goliath with fear. The obstacles in front of me seem like an unbeatable opponent that I am a fool to challenge. In that moment there is a choice to let that fear overtake and cripple or to let God’s still small voice speak encouragement in that hopeless situation. And all that I have to do is uncover my ears to hear His words speak to me.

David & Goliath








He speaks in different ways. He speaks through scripture, songs, or the people in our lives. I hope that you take the encouragement that is offered today. When the obstacle seems insurmountable, He is there to help you on your way. Just listen to His voice. And don’t forget that you have friends in classes, and a staff who care about your success!

Defining Success

Defining Success

What does success really look like?

We are obsessed with the trappings of success: Fancy cars, large homes, expensive jewelry, fashionable clothes. We are drawn to the beautiful, the intelligent, the well put-together.

Adult learners often restart their college careers with a mental image of success that includes worldly possessions. After all, if one devotes so much time, energy, and money to pursuing a dream, shouldn’t one enjoy the trappings of success? Most of us would say “Yes!”

But a college education is, well, different. Unlike sports cars and designer clothing and an impressive body mass index, an education is simply something that automatically follows from a transactional investment. Anyone with the right amount of money can buy fancy things. Anyone with the right amount of time can exercise enough to have a healthy looking body. But academic success is not measured like that.

There are some adult learners who measure academic success by the number of “A’s” they see on a transcript. While such high marks are laudable, they do not necessarily guarantee that an education has been earned.

In my life, I have often learned the most from classes (and endeavors) that I messed up royally! While I usually made good grades in school, upon reflection I see that I learned the most in classes that I struggled with. You know, those classes that pushed every button, those classes that made me question my intelligence. Those classes in which I HATED the work, HATED the subject, and sometimes was tempted to blame the instructor for “not giving clear instructions.”

I didn’t always make A’s in those classes. But, boy, did I ever learn things!

I learned about myself. I learned about my work ethic. I learned about my lack of understanding about a lot of things. And I learned that less than an “A” is not the end of the world.

A college education should be measured by how much it transforms the individual, not just by GPA or a piece of parchment on the wall.

St. Paul, at the end of his worldly mission, declared “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” This was the man who, although he wrote much of the New Testament, had faced rejection, setback, ridicule. Churches he founded had rejected him. Friends he trusted betrayed him. But, at the end of his life and ministry, he could claim victory. Not because he made all “A’s” in the School of Life, but because he was faithful. He learned, he grew, he never quit.

Confession time: When I attend our graduations, I always weep. I see the success that so many have made happen. I see men and women who were often treated as failures, but now they can claim success. I see their families–their spouses, parents, children, and often their grandchildren, cheering as they cross the stage to receive their diplomas. To be part of such milestones never fails to humble me.

Because I know. I see the transcripts. Not everyone is “straight A’s.” Very few breeze through a real college, especially an established liberal arts school like Belhaven. These schools demand excellence in reading, writing, critical thinking, and the ability to iterate a Christian world view that goes far beyond “I believe in a Supreme Being.”

But this is what Success looks like! It is the battle-scarred veteran, the persecuted Apostle Paul, the weary but wise degree recipient.

Not many of our students drive away from graduation in European sports cars or carrying Gucci handbags.

But they walk away with an EDUCATION. They are wiser. They are stronger. They have been pushed to their limits and, even when they broke, they got back up and trudged on.

They fought their good fight. They finished their coursework. And, even when they wanted to give up, they kept the faith.

And THAT looks a whole lot like success.


Carol Dianne Danley, Bachelor of Arts-Social Services, Class of 2014  (Memphis Campus) pictured with Dr. Paul Criss


Memories and Moments…

We are in the midst of another holiday season. Special lights, special food, special gatherings, special traditions—we are surrounded by reminders that some days are just, well, SPECIAL!

What do we remember from Holidays past? Do we remember a special gift? A special friend? A funny story about how this or that went wrong? What do we remember, and what will we remember for years to come? I bet that, with a few notable exceptions, we will not remember what gifts we received or what gifts we gave. No, what we will remember is how we FELT.

An oft-repeated phrase in business is that people rarely remember what we say but they always remember how we make them feel. This is the basis of true customer service in business, and lies at the heart of most of our relationships.

In every interpersonal interaction, we have an opportunity to make the moment memorable. With our words and our body language, we can make others feel welcome and appreciated, or we can make them feel unwelcome and unappreciated. How approachable are we?

For Christians, we have the great assurance that we can approach the Throne of Grace boldly, knowing that we are welcome and appreciated because of our relationship with Christ. We are never turned away, never a bother, never troublesome.

So as we make our way through the holidays and into a new year, let’s resolve to make memories with those around us. Let’s make them feel valuable, worthy of our time, and appreciated. Those are the memories they will never forget!

The Overcomer

Adults who return to school overcome any number of obstacles. Work, family, church, health, military and community service–all put demands on our limited time. I have come to believe that the single greatest thing that an adult learner MUST possess is determination. Many struggle with one academic skill or another, and many have to tackle new technology, but I have seen determined individuals overcome these things. The one ingredient that I have never seen someone lack and still succeed is DETERMINATION. The adult learner must set his or her face like flint and push ahead, regardless of what life brings.

Meet Carol Danley, Belhaven Memphis Class of 2014. Carol received the Belhaven Social Services Award. This award goes “to the student who best models Jesus’ ministry to those whom society often neglects.” Carol’s story is much more than one of academic excellence and community service. Like many of our students, Carol had to overcome health issues, death in the family, and any number of other challenges. Her academic testimony is amazing.

Carol has enjoyed a 35 year career in Social Services. Yet she was still compelled to come to Belhaven to complete her degree. Most of us, after accomplishing so much, would be tempted to brag just a little. Not Carol! In her words: “Belhaven presented me with a unique opportunity to fulfill a forty-five year dream.  I sat in faith before God daily. The profound support I received from my family and friends, the wise counseling and consideration of my professors and staff, will forever be embedded in my heart. To this day personal dreams have been fulfilled.  Success is not mine.  It belongs to God.  He kept me through it all.”

Amen, Carol. We know that Christ calls His people to be Overcomers, just as He overcame the world. And we know that we overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony, that Christ is indeed the Victor. One that day, we will cast our crowns at His feet, for He is the One who did it all.

Carol’s story is amazing, and is a testimony that, with God’s help, we can accomplish all He calls us to do. Look Carol up and get her story–it is inspiring. She completed her degree while also serving her church and community, and all while overcoming any number of health and family issues. She is living proof of what faith, determination, and a lot of hard work will do.

Carol Danley receiving the Belhaven Social Services Award from Dr. Paul Criss, Dean  of Belhaven Memphis & Desoto


Emotional Intelligence and the Adult Student

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

As a student as well as instructor, I am amazed that too often I find myself “covering material” rather than engaging! I will do what it takes to make sure that I can boast that I read the assignments, viewed the videos, wrote the papers, and prepared for class. However, how often am I really ENGAGING the classroom, the instructor, the student, the material?

My temperament is such that I engage emotionally. I am an extrovert and natural “people person.” As such, I am most comfortable when I can “feel” connected. I find that MANY other adult students are able to learn and grow when they connect in the classroom (either in person or virtual), and that those who fail are often the most disconnected.

So why do so many of us instructors focus on “covering material” rather than connecting with students and connecting students to the subject matter? Thoughts?

Education and Leadership Development

Are leaders born or made?

VOLUMES have been written over the past decade about situational leadership, transactional leadership, crisis leadership, transformational leadership, servant leadership, and just about every nuance of leadership that one can imagine. Entire careers have been made lecturing on the importance of leadership and selling the latest leadership development approach.

One thing that most of the literature seems to agree on: Leaders are both born AND made. My take is that they are born of necessity rather than just from the womb. They are also made in the crucible of business, ministry, opportunity, and crisis.

Why is leadership development important for executives? For starters, most professionals in any realm (sports, military, business, ministry, etc.) usually want to be the best that they can be. Professionals take NOTHING for granted, including their leadership style and ability. While some are born with great charisma and drive, they understand that past success is no guarantee of future success.   (Even Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks work daily with a quarterback coach to improve their skills!)

 Also, effective executives understand that their realm of influence is constantly changing.  Teams change, organizations change, rules change, economies change. The style or skill that worked well yesterday may be outdated today.

Finally, I believe that the best leaders look for ways to develop leadership skills among their team members. Whether it is encouraging subordinates to enroll in a professional MBA program, having them attend leadership education seminars, or by providing opportunities to lead projects in-house, the best executive leaders strive to build an energized, empowered team of professionals. They create an environment in which it is okay to make a mistake now and then as long as the mistake is made while trying to complete the organizational mission in an ethical way.