Season of Joy

I love this time of year – the season of joy starting with Thanksgiving, and extending into the New Year. We start the season with a thankful heart. We continue the season filled with joy as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. We look forward to the adventures awaiting us in the New Year.

This time of year is extra special for an outstanding group of individuals – our Belhaven graduates. I know you are filled with joy as you anticipate commencement, and look forward to celebrating with your family and loved ones. Now the real work begins as you take this new found knowledge and experience into the world to continue to do great things! Congratulations graduates on your accomplishments!

Even with all of the joy, this season can sometimes get more stressful than joyful for some of us. When your holiday season becomes overwhelming, we need to remember that God wants us to be joyous this season.

I received a timely email with some great reminders of how to keep joy in your holiday. The author quotes from an article she read recently in Christian Today.

Six ways that you can make the most of your holidays…

Spend It With Family and Friends

Gifts, dinners and vacations are not to be the main reason for the celebration. Earthly possessions are great, but they are nothing compared to the joyous blessing of family and friends. God made us to be relational beings and even commands us to live a lifestyle of building relationships and loving one another (John 13:34).

Take Advantage of Focusing on Other’s Needs

The best part of the holidays isn’t the receiving, but the giving. Just like Acts 20:35 tells us “…It is more blessed to give than to receive…” Instead of focusing on what we’re going to get this season, why not set aside time and resources to give to the community and meet the needs of others?

Meditate on the Nativity Story

The true meaning of Christmas is Christ. It’s a great reminder of the wonderful news that our savior was born into this world to set us free from sin and iniquity. Taking time to meditate on the nativity story is a great idea to truly celebrate the reason for the season—Jesus. Celebrate the Intangibles Gifts are not the things that are of greatest value to us. Matthew 6:19 tells us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” The greatest gifts are things that money cannot buy, and those are what bring the most joy and happiness to us.

Invest Into Yourself

It’s not a sin to treat yourself. Think of the holidays as celebrating the win of holding fast to what God called you to do this year. God wants us to invest and take care of ourselves just as much as we love others (Mark 12:31).

Rest

Holidays are seasons of sabbatical rest that restores our souls and bodies as we approach God once more in worship and thanksgiving. Honoring the Sabbath is serious business to God, and the holiday season is a great way to experiencing God’s rest.

I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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#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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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.

Life is a Team Sport

“…many hands and hearts and minds generally contribute to anyone’s notable achievements. We share, to a large extent, one another’s fate.  We help create those circumstances which favor or challenge us in meeting our objectives and realizing our dreams.” ~Walt Disney

I want to introduce you to an incredible friend of mine.  Her name is Denise.  She would be the first to admit, that she was NOT a runner.  She laughed that she could barely run half a block without getting winded.  Denise, her husband Hansen and another couple decided to run a marathon.  Once they registered and paid the money, there was no turning back.  The goal was set.  Now they needed a plan.  They purchased the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer which helped them lay out their training regimen.  With a plan in place, all they needed was determination and commitment to the plan.  They started in June.  The marathon was in October.  There were many days when one of the fearsome four didn’t feel like running or training.  They lifted each other up with encouragement and support.  I am happy to report they all ran in the Chicago marathon, and finished with respectable times.  The entire experience and the feeling of achievement were unbelievable!

Pursuing your education is a lot like running a marathon.  Although the activities are more mental than physical, the process is the same.  You set a goal for yourself – to complete your degree or pursue advanced education.  You laid out a plan that seemed to make sense.  Now comes the hard part – life happens – especially in adult education.  You have obligations to yourself, your family, your work, your church, your community and your friends.  Your best laid plans now seem obscure.  Don’t give up on your goal.  This is where the commitment and determination are paramount.  This is when you reach out to others who are in a similar situation for help, support and encouragement – your fellow students.  Just as Denise discovered, the training was tough – something she had never experienced before.  Through faith, determination and perseverance she stayed committed to the goal.  As she discovered, the end result was well worth the effort.  Your education will change your life.

Excellence is a Prevailing Attitude

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” ~ Colin Powell

During my career, I had the pleasure and privilege of working for Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.  If you have experienced the Disney product by visiting the many theme parks, taking a cruise, buying merchandise or going to the movies, you have experienced the “excellence.” At Disney, excellence is truly a prevailing attitude from the front line Cast Members to the executive suite.  Everybody gets it.  The excellence doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by setting high expectations and following through with every detail.

So you may be thinking, nice story, but what has that got to do with me?  As an adult learner you made the choice to pursue your education.  You are making an investment in yourself.  At times, it may be tough balancing your family, work, community involvement and school obligations. I encourage you to “choose excellence” by setting high expectations for yourself.  Follow through by developing habits in the “little matters.”  Examples of this include developing good study habits; assessing and revising how you manage your time; asking for help/guidance; and developing a support network. Excellence is not achieved by chance.  It is a choice.  I challenge you to “choose excellence” for your educational journey and develop the habits to achieve excellence.  I guarantee it will be worth it.