31 Oct 2012 TracyRuckman

Celebrating the Breaks of Life

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Regent University - celebrationWhen I first started back to school, working and going to school full-time, I thought the breaks between sessions would be my “catch-up” times. I planned to use that time to catch up on all the housework that fell behind because of my schedule, or on the work I could get done before the new session started.

But after a year of doing that, I realized I was burning myself out. So now, I’m more strategic in my planning, and build in some fun and relaxation during those down times.

As crazy as it sounds, we clean house and put out many of our Christmas decorations during our fall break in October. This gives me more of an opportunity to actually enjoy them, rather than trying to scurry around during our short Thanksgiving break to get it all done. By at least having them upstairs (rather than their hiding place in the basement), I can do a little at a time to make special arrangements all around the house.

I try to plan a vacation for after Christmas. This year, we have a longer break before school starts back, so that gives us more time to wind down and really relax. As Session A winds down and Session B begins, I’m already counting the days!

Here are some other ideas for celebrating during breaks:

  • Take a road trip. With current gas prices continuing to rise, your “road trip” might just have to be to the grocery store, but make an adventure out of at least one journey.
  • Visit local museums or tourist attractions. Playing tourist for a day or two is almost as good as a real vacation!
  • Read a book for fun. Okay, so maybe you read books regularly for fun, but with my work and all the textbook reading, I have to plan when to read for fun, and I use the breaks to do it. Getting lost in a delightful novel is a great escape.
  • Read an entire book of the Bible during your break. Digging into the Word restores, refreshes, and rejuvenates more than any other activity. Don’t believe me? Spend a week in Acts and watch what happens!
  • Throw a party! Most younger college students don’t need an excuse to have a party, so why should all of us non-traditional students? Invite friends or family over for a meal, or for coffee, dessert and conversation. Doesn’t have to be extravagant – the point is just spending time in fellowship with friends and loved ones.
  • Take a hike. Have you checked out any of the state or national parks near your home? Throw some picnic foods in a backpack and hit the trails – getting into nature is a great way to refresh.
  • Volunteer for some mission work. Check your local homeless shelter, food pantry, or senior center and see if they could use some help for a day or two during your break. Giving of yourself to someone in need is a great way to acknowledge appreciation for the blessings of your own life.

As I wrote this post, I learned of the death of a very special lady. I never met her in person, but we both belonged to the same professional groups and had been acquainted online for many years, exchanging occasional e-mails, prayer requests and Facebook comments. Her sudden death was a surprise to everyone, and caused all who knew her to pause. We all just stopped for a few minutes or a few hours, pondering life and death. She was a Christian and she shared her love of Jesus with everyone. We don’t wish her back, because we know she’s happy and well with Jesus, but we do reflect on our own lives.

Life is too short. Make the most of every break, the most of every day – live your life with gusto, so that when you’re gone, people will pause. Celebrate life in such a way that people will want to know what you have, and then you can tell them what Jesus means to you.

29 Oct 2012 JennaEdwards

Fasting is a Beautiful Thing

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“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? - Isaiah 58:6

Regent University - ChapelEvery year since beginning college at Regent, I fast from one thing. I try to really focus on Jesus and my studies and to do that, I let go of something that I feel is getting in the way of it. My freshman year, I chose to fast from television. My sophomore year, I chose to fast from Facebook and Twitter.

This year, I chose to start a fast from Facebook. I let my family & friends know simply because it is one of the only ways of communication I have with them. Fasting is a beautiful thing. It truly allows us to focus on what really matters–God.

This life is busy. Things crowd our minds, and our judgment, every single day. In this crazy life, it is so important to place God first in everything, and fasting allows us to do just that, when we take it seriously.

We all know how Facebook is–we get on to check it for a minute and we stay on for thirty minutes to an hour doing nothing but being nosy. I decided that wasn’t satisfying. It doesn’t fill me like Jesus does. I decided every time I even have a thought about Facebook, I am going to pick up my Bible. Throughout this fast (until Easter), I want to have read the Bible completely through once.

It’s time we stop being addicted to social media and become addicted to the Father.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” - Psalm 73:26

26 Oct 2012 MadelineWenner

Beware the Likable Professor

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On that first day of class, you have no idea what your professor will do.

Take Dr. Jayce O’Neal. For the first day of Public Speaking last year, he abandoned the lectern and sat in the back of the room, posing as a student. Though we all vehemently denied it afterwards, the ruse had us half-fooled, and we couldn’t help liking a professor who wasn’t above a practical joke.

The course was incredible. Dr. O’Neal discerned our personalities after just a few classes and pushed us out of our carefully constructed comfort zones. While teaching us to relate to audiences and argue properly, he instilled confidence in the shy and helped the proud realize their weaknesses. When the course ended, we weren’t just better public speakers; we were better individuals.

A few months later, Dr. O’Neal invited a group of students to meet about “an exciting new project” he hoped we’d be interested in. I assumed he meant a student club or a simple internship program. You know, something student-centric, something to influence our academic performance or build our résumés.

I was thinking small.

Dr.  O’Neal was thinking big.

Church-sized, in fact. Several years of careful planning and guidance from mentors and pastors had gone into planting RED Church, and now he wanted students to help in the final months before the launch. After explaining its mission–reaching out to the unchurched and de-churched and emphasizing the Redemption, Encouragement, and Destiny of believers–Dr. O’Neal asked us if we were willing to commit. Nearly everyone signed on.

Regent University - Red ChurchSeven months later, RED Church has been more than a feel-good volunteer opportunity. Dr. O’Neal wanted everyone involved to develop into a leader, a kingdom-builder. We’ve worked through three major fundraisers, attended training sessions, and helped with small groups. We’re preparing for the first preview service on October 27 and the official launch this winter.

Just as he had in Public Speaking, Dr. O’Neal has helped everyone involved discern our strengths then push us beyond them, out of our comfort zones, and into the area where faith and natural ability combine. Months before opening its doors, RED Church is already building new leaders.

24 Oct 2012 RudolfKabutz

The Future-Thinking Mountain Biker

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On a lovely fresh morning, we went mountain biking in the largest known meteorite crater on earth. The crater located at Vredefort in South Africa. The overall diameter of this crater is about 300 kilometers. The wild-card event of the meteorite hitting earth turned a depth of 17 kilometers of rock layers upside-down, which led to a significant change of events many years later: gold, which is otherwise located at a depth of about 3 kilometers, was found on the surface of the earth. The resulting South African history developed very differently due to this single highly uncertain but very impactful event.

Regent University - Meteorite impactThis meteorite impact was a long time ago, but as we prepared for the mountain bike ride, we had to start thinking of the future: which route should we ride amongst all the possible routes? Before we set off, we had a good look at the overall landscape surrounding us. On the satellite photographs of the circular meteorite crater, we found a little hill close by in the fairly flat valley. This hill was composed of rock that had melted due to the intense heat of the impact explosion. These rocks had been mined in an old quarry because of the beautiful patterns that the fluid rock made amidst many other rock fragments. By first seeing the overall system, we were able to plan out our route, get a rough idea of where to travel, and anticipate some of the challenges along the way. We then knew how to get to the little hill.

As we started cycling in the cool morning breeze, the shortest route would have been to head straight towards the little hill which we could see in the distance. The others in the group were too skeptical to follow unknown paths through the brush and grass. Instead, we followed the wide tar road that took us on a long loop to the other side of the hill. This was fine with everybody. Once we were closer, a small jeep track took us right into the quarry. By then the group had established sufficient trust that these paths were actually leading to the desired location. They became more willing to move along these smaller and less used paths.

Once we came to the top of the hill, an amazing change in perspective happened: all of us could see our starting point in the distance! Our group became ready to even take new routes. To get back home, we scouted out narrow footpaths that the cattle had taken through the bush. This was a lot more risky, because we might have had to backtrack if a path just stopped, or we could even have gotten lost when the location became unclear. Our group struggled to follow these fuzzy paths, because they were not completely clearly visible. We kept our vision focused on our goal, which kept us going. Only once we returned exactly to our starting point did everybody rejoice that we had found the best route home!

As you think about taking a team into the future with you, you might consider these questions:

Regent University - Mountain biking1. While you are thinking ahead, how can you help others to see the overall picture?
2. How can you prepare people to “see” where they will be going, even when paths are unclear?
3. In which way can you help your team to build trust in the route that you are guiding them?
4. What will help you obtain consensus for moving ahead to reach the goal?
5. How can you prepare each team member for the rough challenges they will encounter en route?
6. How can the team remain motivated and enthusiastic along the journey?
7. Which unexplored paths would you want to leave aside for the sake of staying with the team?
8. How can your team celebrate once you have reached the desired goal?

Future thinking becomes useful when the insights about potential developments from past events are used in the present. Well, until the next meteorite hits, we hopefully will be able to plan and implement a few more exciting mountain biking trips with our teams riding into their future!

17 Oct 2012 KevinMills

Define Your Rat Race

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Regent University - advertisementsGosh we’re busy – North America in general. We suffer daily from a thousand noises – coffee shops have baristas calling orders across the room, while loud fusion music tries to set a culture and tone.

While this goes on in the background, we’re bombarded by advertisements on our coffee cups, napkins, phones and laptops – all of which try to make their priorities our priorities.

Communication and information overload has become the norm in our culture. As business and technology expert, Peter Senge, so cunningly stated – technology has far by-passed human ability. Consequently, we are left in a perpetual state of catch-up. Ironically and worst of all is that it’s a catch-up that is not defined.

It’s one thing to be racing towards a defined finish line – it’s another to be in a race with an undefined end. Ask yourself, do you have a defined “finish line?” Do you know what career accolade and/or achievement will mark the accomplishment of personal success? What income bracket? What degree? What house, car, family, spouse? Or have you relegated yourself to believing you’ll “know it when you see it”?

We are living in an insanely busy time and society – define your personal goals and be as specific as possible. We are living in a time where the prevailing marketing attitude exacerbates and influences a never-ending paranoia of “falling behind” the Jones’.

Define what success is to you and be content when it’s achieved – this requires a moral and personal ethos mooring.

16 Oct 2012 JaniceDaynette

Facing the Goal

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Regent University - soccer teamSoccer season is officially over, at least in my household. It has been a fun year for my daughter who moved up to the varsity team. The coach approached her at the beginning of the season and asked her if she would consider playing on the varsity team. You see, she was a ninth grader and junior varsity was where she was to play. She is a good athlete. When she asked my advice, I wanted her to consider the possibility of less playing time, since she would be the youngest player on the team. I allowed her to make the decision and she chose to play with the older girls. As I suspected, she had little playing time, but she enjoyed the season and the games. My daughter has a wonderful temperament and is truly a team player. She never complained about her limited playing time on the field. When she played, she played hard. The coach surprised the parents with this wonderful photo and I knew from the moment I saw this photo that I had to share it. It is my current screensaver and my main Facebook photo. It gives me so much joy to look at this photo. Look at it closely, what do you see?  Do you see the colors and the uniformity of the team? Do you see their pony tails moved to one side so that you can see their names? Do you see the team? It’s funny. I see the team, but I also see each individual girl. Maybe because I watched them play during the season. Maybe it’s because I talked to their moms and dads during the season. We cheered, laughed and carpooled together. Each girl contributed her skill and gifts for the benefit of the team. There were some losses, some injuries, and even a few miscalculations. But more importantly, there were precious moments these girls shared together as a community, linking arms with those who supported them and joined them to face their goals. Maybe I like this photo because to me, it represents each new day and the communities that are a part of our lives. Every day I make sure I am facing in the right direction and I am not alone.

So what does this look like from the field, from the stands, and from the opponent’s team? As a seminary graduate student, I am surely on the field. I understand what I am supposed to do, but there are times when I just can’t get a good kick to the net. Life is pretty busy and that busyness appears as obstacles. Sometimes, just sometimes, it feels harder to focus and time is moving on. Even so, I keep running while keeping my eye on the ball and realize I am playing for the team.

From the stands, I see my friends and family who are supporting “the game.” They help whenever I need them; they just can’t play. I am thankful for their support. From the opponent’s team there’s another strategy. My opponents are trying their hardest to make sure I don’t connect with the ball and score for the team. Opponents are everywhere. I am equally thankful for them because they are making me a better player. God led me to seminary because He knows we (He, my community and I) can kick it so the net. So be reminded in all you do: Embrace those who encourage you, expect opponents, keep your eye on the ball and take the shot!

15 Oct 2012 TonyaJohnson

Life Happens

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Life Happens! This is one phrase that perfectly sums up what I’ve been going through lately. As we strive to reach our goals, we are reminded that the journey is not always smooth. At times, we experience bumps and dips along the way in the form of unexpected circumstances and challenges; yet we must be willing to make room for these encounters, keep the faith, balance ourselves and continue to stay the course.

Regent University - ChessI truly thank God for keeping me in the midst of life’s great ups and downs. For the most part, I’ve been able to overcome those rocky roads when life seems to throw a few curve balls. We all have them. Things that seem to break out just when a semester starts, is about to end or when an important paper is due. While on this journey towards completing a Master’s in Education, I’ve certainly had a few. For examples: painful leg and foot cramps during finals, anemia which tried to slow me down, an in-law who suddenly went AWOL (not from the military); two family members that were in the hospital at the same time, and a loved one who recently went home to be with the Lord… Even when a situation is not directly happening to us, it still affects us. It’s just like a chess board or puzzle, when something is missing or out of place, the entire game is affected.

Today, praise God, I am reminded that God never gives us more than we can handle. I am also reminded of the words of Jesus, which Paul shares in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, saying,

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It’s a great comfort to know that, no matter what we go through in life, we can draw strength from God, who’s our rock, sword and shield. Today my spirit soars higher and higher as this familiar verse from Psalm 61 fills my heart “…when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I…” (KJV).

So what pressures, burdens or stressors of life are troubling you? Let go and let God have His way in your situation. Let Him see you through it. He cares for YOU!

11 Oct 2012 FrederickJones II

Social Entrepreneurship: Creating Social Value in Your Community

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At Regent University, in my Organizational Innovator class, we have discussed the benefits of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs make a difference in the marketplace and community because they combine innovation, resources and opportunity to address critical social and environmental challenges. Social entrepreneurs focus on transforming systems and practices that are the root causes of poverty, environmental deterioration and the accompanying loss of human dignity. They are change agents that establish for-profit or not-for-profit organizations, and their primary objective is to create sustainable system change.

Regent University - Robertson HallRegent Law’s Center for Global Justice interns, professors, and students create systems of social change by applying their faith (i.e., their confidence in God and His ability), courage, expertise and wisdom to make an impact in the fight against human trafficking, both domestically and internationally. Their initiatives influence corporate social responsibility by providing a service of transforming social and environmental conditions, increasing the standards of human self-esteem.

Regent undergraduates and graduates have the opportunity to collaborate with organizations that adopt a mission to create and sustain social value in their state and local communities. My wife is an upcoming social entrepreneur, whose purpose is to give people hope to live their dream life by creating practical and creative ways to achieve and release their God-given passion. Along the journey of completing her doctorate program in organizational leadership, she teaches a young CEO workshop to youth groups. Young people learn about domestic and global leadership to change their world and the world around them. Young people’s hearts become zealous to become entrepreneurs that create social change, and leaders living out their purpose.

In essence, social entrepreneurs fundamentally are changing the way society organizes itself to approach social problems. It requires a committed person with a vision and determination to persist even when they face tremendous opposition. The ability to bring about positive change to people and communities is not an easy project at first. People naturally resist change in any sector. However, the benefit that social entrepreneurs gain by creating social value is discovering a precious treasure within one’s heart that is worth more than gold.

So as a Regent student, you can think about ways to start a business or become a part of a business that is aligned with your purpose in life. Once you have prepared your heart with confidence, courage and commitment, create jobs that will make an impact and increase social awareness in our economy, our community and our nation.

10 Oct 2012 JonathanSalmen

The Burden-Bearing Church

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“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6.2

Have you ever had one of those days where the world seems to be falling down on you? Or a day where you just don’t feel right? Let’s face it: we all have had those days. The problems of life just get to us. Feeling this way makes life a burden, like we have something on our chest and can’t get rid of it.

Regent University - Bible pageBut then Jesus comes along, telling the Pharisees that all their mud pie and lawn chair laws are stupid. These laws don’t glorify God; they only give people more burdens to worry about. Jesus tells the people that they can have rest in Him and that His “yoke is easy, and his burden is light.”We’re not alone in feeling this way. In fact, many Jews during the time of Jesus felt exactly this way. Matthew 23:4 says, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders.” Matthew is referring to the Pharisees here. The Pharisees with all their “extra laws” were making it a burden for the people to live. Imagine being accused of sinning for picking up your lawn chair or making a mud pie on a Sunday morning. This is essentially what was happening to these burden-laden Jews.

 As the Church, we are to continue Jesus’s burden-bearing mission with the power of his Spirit living inside us. If you see a fellow brother or sister struggling with a burden, bear it with them. Pray for them, talk with them, and walk alongside them. Jesus took the biggest burden of all, sin, but until He returns we are to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

09 Oct 2012 TracyRuckman

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

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Regent University - comfort zoneButterflies in the stomach. Sweaty palms. Inability to focus. Restless sleep. No, not from the Mexican food I had for dinner, but from stepping out of my comfort zone.

I recently spoke and taught at a writer’s conference in Atlanta. I spent several weeks preparing for the conference, making my PowerPoint presentation for the workshop, and trying to write my keynote address – but it just would not come together. I had the basics down – an idea, a general outline, and I even started building a PowerPoint presentation for it. The night before the conference, the ending finally came to me, but the middle was still a mess. I left for the conference confident I’d have time that night to work on it.

The first keynote speaker presented that night and in her talk, she mentioned something in my own speech. I pondered that. But when I got back to my room that night, school work was due, so I focused on it and then went to bed exhausted and worried that I’d never get the speech done.

The next day, another keynote speaker took the platform. He, too, mentioned another part of my speech. That really got my attention and all day I prayed, asking God whether I should change my speech. I sure didn’t want to look like a copycat. But that night, my speech flowed together and I was finally able to put the finishing touches on it – tweaking it to acknowledge the two speakers who had already mentioned those particular areas I’d already written.

One more keynote address before my own. And yes, she too, mentioned something that was in my now-finished speech. To the world, that might seem a bit spooky, or perhaps just a simple coincidence.

But I don’t believe in coincidences, do you?

The Bible says, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV).

He took hold of my right hand and guided me through the whole conference. God orchestrated the entire event, down to the tiniest details. He knew what each of the keynote speakers were going to say, and He knew what He was going to have me say.

I was terrified to step out of my comfort zone, when God was preparing every step of the way for me. He even saw to it that my hotel room included my favorite two-digit number. The conference gave me an opportunity to meet some incredible writers and make several new friends. Stepping out of my comfort zone blessed me in unexpected ways because God never left my side, and He’ll never leave yours either.

The beginning of each school year always takes me out of my comfort zone. Am I too old to be in school? Can I keep up at my age? With my full-time job? New classes, new professors, new books, new syllabi – all of it can be overwhelming at times.

Take a deep breath. You’re not alone. God knows where you’ve been and where you’re going. And as one of the keynote speakers said, “He’s got YOUR back!”