Thanksgiving Blessings

Virginia Garrison

Director of Retention Services

Thanksgiving Blessings

When you count your blessings at this Thanksgiving time of the year, can you include your college degree as one of them? Is that something that is missing in your life? Is it holding you back from the successful career you would like to have? Is it something you started but never finished?


At Belhaven University, we offer many programs for adults who want to add a degree to their resumé. Not only is an education at Belhaven an academic accomplishment, but it is also a journey of Christian spiritual growth for many students. Our instructors are all Christians, and our curriculum is taught from a Biblical perspective. So a degree from BU is a double blessing!


What are you waiting for? Don’t wait any longer. Get started now! Then next Thanksgiving you can add an “in-progress” blessing to you list!



13 Lies the Enemy May Say, but God Says……..

The life of an adult learner has its ups and its downs. The enemy has a tendency to attack one who is trying to advance themselves more than the average person, but we have tools to help us overcome. God’s word is always present and available to help us fight. This is why we must use his message, which is our double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), to fight the enemy’s voice.

Here are 13 things the enemy may say to us, but God says:

The enemy says: You can figure it out.

God says: I’ll direct your steps.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The enemy says: You are too tired.

God says:I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28-30

The enemy says: It’s impossible.

God says: All things are possible.

Luke 18:27

The enemy says: Nobody loves you.

God says: I love you.

John 3:16

The enemy says: You can’t forgive yourself.

God says: I forgive you.

Romans 8:1

The enemy says: It’s not worth it.

God says: It will be worth it.

Romans 8:28

The enemy says: You are not smart enough.

God says: I will give you wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:30

The enemy says: You are not able.

God says: You are able.

2 Corinthians 9:8

The enemy says: You can’t go on.

God says: My grace is sufficient.

2 Corinthians 12:9

The enemy says: You can’t do it.

God says: You can do all things.

Philippians 4:13

The enemy says: You can’t manage.

God says: I will supply all your needs.

Philippians 4:19

The enemy says: I’m afraid.

God says: I have not giving you fear.

2 Timothy 1:7

The enemy says: You are alone.

God says: I will never leave you.

Hebrews 13:5

Do not ever give up! Remember to use these scriptures as a weapon when the enemy tries to attack you.


Alison Gentry

What Are Your Gifts?

Adult Studies Blog: September 2014


Virginia Garrison, Director of Retention Services


We all have gifts… things we are good at doing… or that we have the potential to do well but haven’t fully developed. What are your gifts? Do they need development?

Do you like to work with people? Are you good at organizing? Maybe you have the gift of administration.

Are you compassionate? Do you like to help and encourage others? Maybe you have the gift of mercy and service.

Are you a “take charge” type of person? Are you good at communicating? Maybe you have the gift of leadership.

Are you good at explaining things to others and enjoy seeing them learn? Maybe you have the gift of teaching.

Do you involve yourself in ministry? Would you like to use that gift to its fullest?

There are too many possibilities to list in this short message. Whatever your gifts may be, wouldn’t you like to develop them further? Wouldn’t you like to use them to the best of your ability? Completing your degree could help you do that! Belhaven University offers many options, including business management, social services, health administration, leadership, Christian ministry, Biblical studies, teacher education, etc.

Why not give yourself the “gift” of education and reach your full potential? In doing so, you will also be helping others who will benefit from receiving what you have to give!

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

1 Peter 4:10

Belhaven University Verse of the Year 2014-2015

Shatter Your Rear-View Mirror!

“The past is in the past!” –from “Let It Go” in the Disney movie Frozen

I have to admit something before we go any further into this post—I have a past. Although I am content with much of my personal history, I am certainly unable to claim that my past is pristine, and I can vociferously argue for keeping the past firmly in the past. I think most of society would agree with me for one reason. Delving into the past means the possibility of unearthing those things we have tried to forget.

They can include an “unfortunate” string of rejected invitations for a high school dance (check), being trapped by peers in a walk-in closet, coughing from the beautifully overpowering cloud of air spray sneaking under the door (again, check—this actually happened to me, and I somehow got in trouble for it!), or being overheard by the wrong person at the wrong time (a thousand checks). As you probably realize, though, I’m still only writing about events from my past that I feel comfortable admitting, but if I move a few mental bookshelves, I can find the dark corner where I store the memories I don’t want to remember.

Over time, we’ve all adopted some euphemisms to describe these things-that-shall-not-be-named: skeletons in the closet, dirty laundry, and baggage (to name a few), and I am no exception. Still, whenever I summon the inner strength to venture past the dust and spider webs to examine these mental artifacts, I think about the past that could have been and long for the present that should have been.


What if I had kept my medical school plans? What if I had taken that job? What if I had been a bit more honest and a bit more careful? What if I had extracted every ounce of potential from every critical moment? What if I had been spent more time with the kids? What if I had stopped asking questions earlier?


For adult learners, these kinds of questions are familiar. The empty spot on the wall haunts us, and the missing line on the resume taunts us. Furthermore, those of us prone to envy have a delightful time with social media #grassisgreener #sarcasm.

(Note: If you don’t understand the #statements, search “hashtagging” online. If you don’t know how to search online, ask some toddlers. You will be shocked by their prowess—seriously.)

Although each of us has a personal motivation for returning to college, every motivation is rooted in the past—the past of NOT being in school.  We want our future to be different, so we change our present to keep us from reliving our past.

So how do we get past our past? I offer some blatantly out of context advice that I’ve heard at least five million times, courtesy of my daughter. As Queen Elsa sang in Disney’s Frozen, just “let it go.”

More seriously, we should follow Paul’s example from Phil. 3:12-14 (NIV):

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I’m not suggesting that we should all find a way to induce amnesia, but maybe we should neglect that dark corner in our minds. Ultimately, the so-called “baggage” of our past only has as much control of our future as our present thoughts allow.

So even on those long, tiring nights of papers and pencils, we don’t have much use for the rear-view mirror. Our past mistakes won’t write our papers or pass our exams, nor should they define who we are.

If you failed algebra, you are not a failure.  You failed a class.

If you lost a job, you are not a loser.  You lost a job.

What are you then? You are someone trying to change the future for yourself and those around you.  You are creating new opportunities from the lessons you have learned from your errors, and if your faith is in Jesus, you are a child of the King.

Put more succinctly, YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

So while you’re thinking about it, break that rear-view mirror.  You won’t be needing it.

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


Why Wait?

In October 2013, the Lumina Foundation released a report on a national study of adult learners.  Their report examined expectations, attitudes and needs of adults learners considering going back to school.  One of the main findings reveals that adults desire to complete their degrees someday but are concerned about their ability to judge family, work and school at the same time.

For most adult learners, family and work must take priority over school.  Children need to eat.  Bills must be paid.  Suddenly, the phrase “I’ll take a semester off” turns into years.  One day, everything in life line up perfectly and one will be able go to back to school, right?  Life works out that way for some.  However, listen to the stories of graduates and learn about the many friends, family, and co-workers who provided encouragement, study groups, tutoring, babysitting, carpools, etc., to help them reach their goals.  It is the community the surrounds and supports an adult learner that makes the difference.

The idea of community support is not new to us.  It is how God intended for us to live: as the body of Christ.  Galatians 6:2 says “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  Why put off today what you can accomplish tomorrow with a little assistance?  Who needs your encouragement and support in order to achieve their goals?

A New Year

It’s January and with every New Year comes New Year’s resolutions.  Some decide to lose weight, attend church services regularly or even save money but, all in all most resolutions are used to improve one’s self.  Many of you have decided that getting your degree is your resolution.  What better way to start your New Year off than by furthering your education.  Education is the gateway to success and opportunity.  Although statics show that most people break these resolutions by mid year, we must resolve in our minds to finish what we start.   Isaiah 40:30-31 tells us that “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

As an adult learner there will be times when you may feel overwhelmed because of finances, work, and family but remember God is our provider and shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19).

Wishing you a Happy New Year!  Continue to examine the past and renew your future with education.

The Burden of Your Calling

Jesus doesn’t mince words when he talks about our responsibilities as his followers – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 ESV).

I finally figured out that the reason this verse has never really bothered me is because I’ve never really understood it. There’s so much here that blows right over my head…come after Christ, deny myself, take up my cross. Really? How does that work?

Until yesterday. That is, it wasn’t until yesterday that I began to understand it. Okay, at least part of it. As I read the verse, the phrase “take up your cross daily” began to resonate. What does the cross mean within this context? Among other things, it seems to me that the cross represents two things (at least): It was Christ’s burden, but it was also a symbol of his calling to bring salvation to his people through his sacrificial death.

We don’t have to look too far in scripture to sense the burden of Christ’s calling. He agonized in Gethsemane; great drops of blood fell from his face as he contemplated what was about to happen to him. He cried “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” “I’m thirsty.” “It is finished.”

It’s beginning to make sense to me now. Jesus asks me to take up my cross daily. I have a calling. The question I now find myself asking is to what extent do I feel the burden of my calling? When was the last time I agonized over my role as a father, an employee, or a member of my community? Quick prayers said on the drive to work or shallow have-a-nice-day devotionals do not reflect a life that feels the burden of a calling. Rather, I’ve come to realize that the “burdened” life requires sacrificial prayer, extensive time in God’s word, and love-motivated obedience to the one who called me.

If you’re reading this blog, you have a calling as well. Your primary calling is the calling to become a follower of Christ through repentance and belief in the good news of the gospel. Beyond that, there’s the calling to serve him in the various spheres of life in which you find yourself (family, work, church, community – just to name a few). For our students on Belhaven University’s adult campuses, they’ve realized that completing an undergraduate or graduate degree represents God’s calling to prepare them for leadership usually in, but not limited to, their workplaces. If God is calling you to serve him as an adult university student, we can help! Many of our staff members have been adult (non-traditional) students and know the balancing act that must take place for adults to successfully complete their education.

I’ve resolved not to take my calling lightly any more, and I hope that’s your resolution as well. I want to experience the burden of my calling each day as Christ has asked me to. To do anything less is to trivialize a role that the Creator-God of this universe has given me.

Season for Change?

September is a month of transition…the hot days of summer begin to cool down…the colors of nature begin to change to a new and vibrant palette…fall is in the air…and the season of autumn officially arrives on September 22.

Transition…change…transformation…can be a wonderful thing! Is it time for a transition in your life? Do you want to make a positive change for yourself and for those around you? What if you were to be transformed into a person with more confidence, more knowledge, more understanding? Would that change your life?

I’ve been working in adult education for over 20 years, with Covenant College and now Belhaven University. I have seen hundreds of transformations during those years…people who literally changed their lives by adding Christian education and earning a degree to their life experience. Here are a few examples of amazing transformations I have witnessed:

  • The young man who was the first in his family to earn a college degree and was then able to fulfill his dream of a professional position helping children of divorce
  • Single moms who were able to get better jobs to support themselves and their children
  • Employees who had been passed over for promotions because they didn’t have a degree and who received promotions and raises after finishing their degrees…some even before finishing
  • The dad whose children were in high school, and he wanted to finish his college degree before they did, and he succeeded
  • The woman who had a dream and started her own business when she finished her degree
  • Parents who wanted to be role models for their children and show them the value of education
  • The 75-year-old woman who wanted to complete what she started many years ago and graduated last May…you’re never too old!
  • Veterans and current military students, some getting higher ranks with their degrees
  • People dissatisfied with their jobs, wanting to change careers, and doing so with a degree
  • Dads and moms wanting better lives for their families
  • The student who was extremely afraid of public speaking when she began classes but gained confidence and became a public relations spokesperson for a large corporation after graduation
  • Students who had tremendous growth in their faith, some totally amazing!
  • And the list could go on and on…

Are you like any of them, or do you have your own special situation? Do you want change in your life? Would you like to be transformed? Belhaven University is an institution where you can discover your place, your purpose.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.    (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Is this your season for change?

Take and Give


A couple of weeks ago, Belhaven University’s Chattanooga campus experienced its first commencement exercise. Dr. Niel Nielson, president of sister institution Covenant College, gave a challenging exhortation to our graduates to pursue their callings. It was the type of evening that those of us in the field of education live for.

I’m the director of admission at Belhaven’s Chattanooga adult and graduate studies campus; I’m also an adjunct faculty member. Among other things, this means that I get to know our students at the beginning, during, and at the end of their college experience. It’s my role as a teacher, however, that allows me to interact with our students in an up-close-and personal way.

As working adults and college students, their lives, for the most part, have become exercises in calculated chaos. I’m thinking of a single mother who writes a ten-page research paper while putting the kids to bed – with Good Night Moon in one hand and her marketing text in the other. And then there’s a dad who works two jobs to support his family but somehow finds the time to return to school and pursue his college degree. Ask him why, he’ll tell you that he does it for his family…to be an example for his kids as well as to increase his income. I see students struggle with family members’ illnesses, the loss of jobs, and many other types of personal struggles too numerous to name. As a teacher, I’m also privileged to experience the joys of the adult college experience – getting to know people in their diversity, learning to work together on a project, sharing in their “I can do this” moments.

At this year’s graduation, I spoke to a young lady who had started her journey toward a college degree several years ago. I can remember the day that she came to our campus to talk about returning to school. There were a series of starts and stops, and, to be honest, I wondered if she would make it. But there she was…a smile, a hug, a thank you, a college degree. Graduation – I love it.

Why do adults return to school to earn their college degrees? In the field of adult education, this is a well researched question. There are a lot of answers, but the way I see it, the foundational answer is found somewhere in the process of “take and give.” Here’s what I mean…

In a previous post, I referred to Jesus’ story about the rich fool and his disciples’ reaction to it (Luke 12). It appears to me that this story pushed Jesus’ followers way outside their comfort zones. The problem was that the rich man used the fruits of his success to ensure an easy and care-free life. The lesson for his disciples (and us) was that they should not take comfort in their plans for personal security; rather, they should trust God for everything – even for things like food and clothing. Predictability and security were no longer to be part of life’s strategic plan. Rather, they were things to be taken by God and replaced with something much better.

To be more specific, Jesus had taken away his follower’s need to find security in material things and replaced it with security that is only found in his kingdom…”Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32, NKJV). The principle here is that Jesus takes from us before he gives to us. Think about it. Before anything worthy of the kingdom takes place in our lives, Jesus has to take away those things that will ultimately hinder experiencing his kingdom…a process of take and give.

For our students who would call themselves Christ-followers, they will tell you that their return to college represents a divine calling. As they pursue their callings into the classroom, they find that many of life’s activities have been taken – sacrifices made – in order that they may experience the joys of God’s provision during the process of earning their degrees. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, but our students will tell you that it is a very rewarding process. After all, there’s freedom in knowing that God will meet our needs – right down to what we eat and wear. However, the “knowing” comes only as a result of God’s taking – a trial exchanged for a kingdom …sacrifice exchanged for, in the case of our students, graduation.

As I spoke with my just graduated applicant/student/friend, it was obvious that she learned this lesson. Perhaps something as wonderful as graduation is a taste of kingdom victory – a reward for trusting God totally and submitting to his process of “take and give.”