Letter to a recent graduate | Parents Celeste & Kurt Zuch

"Stand at the crossroads and look: ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."  Jeremiah 6:16

'Tis the season for graduations. I have been feverishly purchasing, monogramming, and delivering gifts for high school and college graduates. I have attended luncheons and dinners honoring my daughter and her friends who are graduating from high school this year.  And I have spent hours going through photographs to make a very special graduation video that captures her last 18 years in 8 minutes. 

Just the word "Graduation" invokes thoughts of fresh starts, new beginnings, and a plethora of opportunities. This can be exciting, but a little scary too. When I asked my daughter if she is excited or nervous to go away to college she responded "a little bit of both". 

The Israelites were given a totally fresh start when the Lord led them into the Promised Land. It was a graduation of sorts from slavery in Egypt and from 40 years of wandering in the desert. Imagine how excited, yet nervous, they were. At that point, they had 2 choices: 1) continue to follow the Lord who had been faithful to them or 2) rely on themselves and serve false idols. Over time the wrong choice was made. 

In Jeremiah 6:16 the prophet Jeremiah urged the people to "stand at the crossroads and look: ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."  Unfortunately, that verse ends by saying "But you said we will not walk in it". 

That “crossroads decision” brought about terrible consequences. God took his hand of protection off the people, and their beloved Jerusalem was destroyed.   Then they were taken captive in Babylon for 70 years. Their lives were never the same. If only they had listened to Jeremiah. 

Graduation is surely a time for a fresh start, but actually every brand new day brings new opportunities. Remember, when standing at the crossroads, call on God's wisdom.  He is more than happy to point us in the right direction through the Holy Spirit.  We can all use rest for our souls. 

Thoughts to Ponder:

1. If you have expressed faith in Jesus Christ then the Holy Spirit lives within you.  This means that a part of God is always with you!  Isn’t that comforting – especially if you are going out on your own for the first time?  The Holy Spirit desperately wants to provide wisdom and direction, but you have to call on the Holy Spirit through prayer and then be quiet and listen:  “Be still and know I am God”  Psalm 46:10

2. Think back to some “crossroads” that you have encountered thus far. What decision did you make?  How did it turn out?  Was God a part of the decision or not?  How could you make God a part of your decisions in the future? 

 

In Christ,

Celeste and Kurt

Kurt and Celeste Zuch live in Dallas, Texas with their 4 teenage children. They have several years of experience leading Bible studies for both adults and teens. Their three biggest passions are Faith, Family and Education. That’s why they enjoy supporting organizations like Theological Horizons. Celeste is a UVA graduate (COMM ’91) and a die-hard Wahoo fan!

(Note:  Updated for the Theological Horizons’ website in May, 2019) 

Matching Gift Campaign 2019

Batman and Robin.  Lucy and Ethel.  Holmes and Watson.  Calvin and Hobbes.  Dynamic Duos pack more energy and action together than as two individuals apart.  (Imagine Ben’s ice cream without Jerry? Ernie without his roommate Bert?) 

Throughout Scripture, God creates duos for great purposes.  God ordains Eve and Adam to begin the human family.   God works through Naomi and Ruth, David and Jonathan, Mary and Joseph to demonstrate the life-giving power of loyalty, friendship and care.

Dynamic Duos enliven the ministry of Theological Horizons.  Mark, a Mentor, accompanies Rambert, a Horizons Fellow, through epic life decisions.  Ginger and Karen co-lead a Spirit-focused small group. In the office, the team of Beth and Christy do wonders. Interns in aprons, Maddie and Ben, team up to cook delectable Vintage Lunches—while Ellie and Caroline greet newcomers at the door.

Now YOU can join a Dynamic Duo! Donate to Theological Horizons and every single dollar you give will be matched by another generous superhero.  In fact, challenge givers have pledged $50,000 to double all contributions made through May 31. 

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Everything Happens for a Reason? | Fellow Rambert Tyree '19

When I was a child, my parents would always respond to any stroke of misfortune with one simple sentence: Everything happens for a reason. Get rejected by your middle school crush? Everything happens for a reason. Lose the biggest game of the season? Everything happens for a reason. Do poorly on an assignment in math class? Everything happens for a reason.

When I was younger, this response began to infuriate me. What good could possibly come from me getting my heart crushed by my first *love*! What benefit could there possibly be from getting embarrassed in front of everyone I knew and costing the team the biggest game of the year? I didn’t see any value in these hardships and I didn’t understand how these things could be working for my good. These failures ultimately taught me my first lessons in faith.

 I began to lean a little deeper into scriptures that my grandmother recited on an almost daily basis. Jeremiah 29:11, ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”’. I couldn’t comprehend the fact that I had to endure those failures in the beginning in order to grow towards my future. When I dropped the ball in front of hundreds of friends, family, and classmates and cost my team the game, I had no clue that I had to have that failure in order to grow to one day become a member of a collegiate varsity athletic football team.

 There was an old church song my grandmother used to always sing, “He may not come when you want it, but He’ll be there right on time. He’s an on-time God, yes, He is!”. In those moments, I didn’t understand that I had to go through those young *love* heartbreaks in order to eventually end up with the significant other that was meant to be. Even if I can’t see it in the present, I know that what is meant to be will be…and what is not meant to be, won’t.

 At a young age, I was determined to have things go my way on my time but as I grew more confident in my faith, I learned to let god and let God’s plan work just the way he intended. My all-time favorite scripture comes from Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to His purpose”. As I look back over my life, and think things over, I can truly say that every high, low, and in-between has all worked out for His purpose and for good. I guess when I think about it all, everything does happen for a reason…even if we can’t quite see it at the time.

Take 10: Finals Week Study Breaks

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Make the most of a ten minute pause—wherever you may find yourself around the Grounds of the University of Virginia.

#1 Stop in to the UVa Chapel. Walk along the windows and find a piece of stained glass that draws your eye. Sit down, set a timer on your phone if you like (then put it away), and take ten minutes doing nothing but gazing at the window. Let your eye wander deeply into the colors, the lines and the images. Breathe deeply and let the quiet of the chapel surround you.

#2 Open the gate into an empty Pavilion Garden (you’ll find them behind both the East and West Lawn rooms & Pavilions). Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes walking the garden paths. Step slowly, taking time to notice the path, the plantings, light in the sky. Listen for the noises of animals. Breathe in the fresh air. Walk a bit further along the path.

#3 Walk into the Fralin Museum of Art on Rugby Road. Leave your backpack in the coat room and wander into the galleries upstairs. Find a painting that intrigues you and stop in front of it. Sit down if you like. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to lose yourself in the painting--taking in the details, wondering about the scene, maybe even imagining yourself in the painting. There’s no hurry.

#4 Climb up to the top of the marble steps of the Rotunda. Put down you backpack and sit looking out on the view from that height. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to notice what you see from there: the people, the light, the natural beauty. Listen for sounds around you. Relax to know that, for now, you’re not doing anything at all.

#5 Step into the lobby of Old Cabell Hall. You are surrounded by Lincoln Perry’s mural, “Students’ Progress”. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to peruse the painting, stopping wherever an image or a color draws you in. You don’t have to examine the whole painting. Notice the details in the mural. Imagine yourself in the scene. Lose yourself for a little while.

#6 Stop at your favorite coffee shop or café. Buy your favorite drink (or make it for free in your room). Sit down in an inviting chair—or take your drink outside. Leave aside your phone or your book or your laptop. For now, only savor the warmth, the flavor of this treat. Take all the time you need to drink it. Feel free to close your eyes or look at your surroundings. Daydream about the coming break. How will you relax then?

#7 If you’re in the library, stand up and stretch. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to wander along shelves of books. Stop along the way to notice the titles; pick up books that interest you and flip through the pages, reading if something draws your eye. Look for engaging illustrations. There’s nothing you need to study or remember here. Simply enjoy.

#8 Find a place to sit down. Anywhere that feels out of the way. Outside on a bench, in the grass. Or inside in a comfortable chair or on the floor. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to close your eyes and let your body relax. Imagine yourself in a place you love—or with people you enjoy. Put yourself in the scene, picturing details that take you deeper into that welcoming space. Allow your eyes to stay closed; nobody is watching you. Just rest for a while.

#9 Choose a piece of music—or a favorite playlist--and listen to it with earbuds. Wherever you are, take a wandering walk, letting the sounds fill your mind and your body. Don’t check your phone or do anything else right now; there will be time for that later. For these ten minutes, let the music be the soundtrack for your walk.

#10 Pause wherever you are. Get comfortable. Use your phone or laptop to visit the website, Pray as You Go. Try this guided meditation and prayer:

Longing for childlikeness | Reflections by Fellow Evan Heitman '19

Venerable Fulton Sheen tells the following parable:

Picture a child with a ball, and suppose that he is told that it is the only ball he will ever have to play with. The natural psychological reaction of the child will be to be fearful of playing too much with it, or bouncing it too often, or even pricking it full of pin holes, because he will never have another ball. But suppose that the child is told that perhaps next month, perhaps next week, perhaps even in five minutes, he will be given another ball, which will never wear out, which will always give joy and with which he will never tire of playing. The natural reaction of the child will be to take the first ball a little less seriously, and to begin playing with it joyously and happily, not even caring if someone does prick it full of pin holes, because he is very soon going to have another ball which will endure eternally.

He tells this parable to describe what life is able to and ought to be like for the Christian. He continues saying: “The Christian [believes] that some day, perhaps even tomorrow, he will have another ball, another world, another sphere, another life. And so he can begin to play with this earth, enjoy it’s monotony, and even be resigned to it’s pinpricks, for he knows that very soon he is going to have the other ball, which is the other life that will never wear out or become tiresome, because its life is the life of the eternal God, the beginning and the end of all that is.”

Childlikeness has been calling to me a lot recently. It keeps inserting itself into my thoughts and prayers with what seems like the dogged persistence of a… child. Now, I’m a little ways out from being a young child myself and, by all appearances, a little ways out from having kids of my own (although I just become Catholic so who can say), but I’ve been struck by what a treasure trove of wisdom children possess, even if they won’t realize this fact until they’re at least a 20-something getting ready to graduate from UVA. 

I could go on and about how the idea of childlikeness has captured my heart, but for brevity’s sake I’ll leave it at this:

I desire the playfulness that makes a child see a trip to the hardware store as an adventure not a chore

I desire the trust that makes a child ask to be thrown up in the air, never even imagining that they might be dropped

I desire the insouciance that makes a child approach total and complete stranger because they want to make a friend 

I desire the wonder that makes a child want to see a magic trick over and over and over and over again

I desire that love that makes a child tell their parents everything without a filter

I desire to take my life a little less seriously, to begin living it more joyously and happily, not caring if someone pricks it full of pin holes, because I know Who my Father is.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The beautiful bright festival

In Orthodox churches, all the people stand up & respond as this sermon by John Chrysostom (4th c.) is read on Pascha, or Easter, morning. 


Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Enjoy this beautiful bright festival!  
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?  Rejoice & enter into the joy of the Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?  With gratitude join in the Feast
The Lord is gracious. Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!  
First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! 
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of God’s goodness!

Let no one grieve at their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. 
Let no one mourn that they have fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.  
Christ has destroyed it by enduring it.

Christ destroyed Hell when He descended into it. 
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.  Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.  It is mocked. It it is annihilated. It is now made captive. 
Hell took a body, and discovered God.  Hell took earth, and encountered Heaven. 
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! 
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! 
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! 
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Read the complete homily here.

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I chose to give to Theological Horizons because without a doubt, TH has been has been one of the most formative organizations I have encountered at UVA. My spiritual and intellectual life have grown immensely because of friendships I formed, mentors I learned from, and experiences I gained all because of TH’s generosity and investment in students like myself. I can’t imagine the past four years without TH and I hope to participate in the good work they are doing by helping them provide to others the same opportunities provided to me.
— Isabella Hall '19, Perkins Fellow

Spoken - A poem by Fellow Dominique DeBose '19

Maybe She speaks through sisters, through friends, through strangers.

Maybe She sometimes sounds like mom.

Maybe Their voice is a collective of my neighbors’ gestures. The song the choir seems to sing back to me.

Maybe I ask too decidedly, too unwillingly, with doubt disguised as hope.

Maybe He speaks through the rain or through my green tea.

Maybe He speaks through the croaking green toads at the bank of the pond next to me.

Maybe He speaks through my father’s tone after asking permission, telling me to be careful when I think I already know.

Maybe She speaks with a cold touch, good taste, or warm wind.

I never thought He’d sound like a simple “sure” or an uncomfortable unexpected “have you thought of this?”

I’m certain They speak through the stars and through my pastor. Through the Bible I can’t seem to bring myself to understand.

I’m certain They speak through close calls and euphoric sensations.

I’m convinced They speak to everyone else but me.

But maybe I’ve gotten used to those things, those sounds, those feelings.

Or maybe I don’t know them well enough at all.

Maybe She is much bigger than the things I know or am used to.

And maybe She is exactly what I am used to.

Maybe She speaks through my mom and friends’ affirmations.  

Maybe He speaks through my poems or the guys I used to like.

Convincing me I get what I ask for. That’s how it goes, right?

Well, I must’ve been asking wrong without knowing because I live in lack of response.

Or maybe I wasn’t being honest.

And She knew all along, like father’s always do, like strangers always sense.

And She spoke through them replying with what I asked for, and what I didn’t.

And She spoke through the trees, too, just for fun.

And continues to speak through the choir on Sunday mornings.

Convincing me that maybe She listens.

Convincing me that maybe they’ve already spoken, and are speaking as we speak.

Because maybe a little is enough, especially when I know I am weak.   

We are dirt people {Lent 1}

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It's mud season in Virginia.

As I walk Ginger around University Circle today, stepping across puddles of melted snow, the poet Jane Kenyon's words come to mind: "Beside the porch step, the crocus prepares an exultation of purple, but for the moment holds its tongue..."

I resolve (fleetingly) to prepare my flower bed for great things. Back at my laptop, The Smiling Gardener educates me on the virtues of humus: the "super important" dark, rich organic matter that holds nutrients, water and microbes.

Humilis comes from the Latin for "low". "The Lord God formed a human from the humus and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And the human became a living being."

Humus. Human. It's right there in Genesis: you and I, we are dirt people---created by God to receive blooming, bursting, exultant life.

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"Humility is a proper evaluation of who we are---and a recognition of the greatness of God in us."

From the distant 17th century, Francis de Sales tells it like it is. But information is not the same thing as transformation.

This Lent, let us take time and prayer to ponder, with humility, our true situation, acknowledge all of the knowing that we do not know, and prepare our earthy selves to welcome the graces of God, growing in us.

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“Lent 2001”

The cosmos dreams in me

while I wait in stillness

ready to lean in a little further

into the heart of the Holy.

I, a little blip of life,

a wisp of unassuming love,

a quickly passing breeze,

come once more into Lent.

No need to sign me

with the black bleeding ash

of palms, fried and baked.

I know my humus place.

This Lent I will sail

on the graced wings of desire,

yearning to go deeper

to the place where

I am one in the One.

{Joyce Rupp}

read all of the poem

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More on humility…

“I encourage you, then, to make experience, not knowledge, your aim. Knowledge often leads to arrogance, but this humble feeling never lies to you.” —Anonymous, Book of Privy Counsel [1]

“I love especially these three little virtues: gentleness in the heart, poverty in the spirit and simplicity in life.” Francis de Sales

in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

From “The Litany” by Dana Gioia

This is the litany to earth and ashes,

To the dust of roads and vacant rooms,

To the fine silt circling in the shaft of sun,

Settling indifferently on books and beds.

This is a prayer to praise what we become:

‘Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return.’

Savor its taste—the bitterness of earth and ashes.

Choosing a college: Practical Advice for Christian Parents by Susan Yates

We’re so grateful for this guest post by author/speaker Susan Yates. You can see more of her work and sign up for her blog posts at www.susanalexanderyates.com

Choosing a college can be thrilling and agonizing, hopeful and grab-your-kleenex-where-did-the-time-go emotional.  As Christian parents, we pray not only for the right school for our children, but also that they will get involved in campus ministries and build solid relationships with other believers.

How can we guide our children through the process of choosing a school, and help get them established once they’re there?

Here are some practical tips I hope will help — with thanks to my daughter Allison, who provided input.  It’s hard to believe our two oldest grandkids are now college-aged!

Visiting colleges

It’s best to begin visiting colleges your junior year or before. This will enable you to know what the realistic options are, and will help relieve the stress of the unknown. (A visit with a college counselor might also inspire your child to work harder to be considered.)

A few tips to get the most out of these visits:

  • Meet with campus ministries.

Before your visit, line up a college tour, and arrange to meet with a representative of one or two campus ministries. You’ll want to find out what the fellowship is like on campus. A college administrator should be able to give you names or check out groups like Cru, InterVarsity, Navigators, Reformed University Fellowship, etc.

  • Visit during the week.

It’s best to visit a campus during the week rather than on the weekend. Time your trip so your son or daughter will be able to attend one of the campus fellowship meetings.

  • Take notes!

Have your student take notes on each place, listing the pros and cons. It’s easy to forget the details when you’re looking at several schools.

  • Consider budget and scholarships.

Be careful looking at colleges you know you can’t afford. This will set you and your child up for disappointment. However, do check out financial aid and scholarship possibilities. There are many — often unpublicized — options and you don’t want to miss them.

Determining which school

Set a date before the beginning of senior year for the college applications to be finished. This is a long process and your child may need your encouragement along the way (even if they roll their eyes, they appreciate it more than you know).

Once you’ve heard from schools, it’s wise to visit the ones your child is most interested in again. This time, arrange for them to spend the night in a dorm with a believer. Going to class and attending another fellowship meeting will give them a better picture of what college life is like. If you’re visiting with them be sure to give them space to attend activities by themselves.

Consider a gap year

Many students benefit from taking a gap year off before beginning college. If you’ve been accepted at your school choice, you can apply for a deferment for one year, which will secure your place.

A gap year should be a meaningful experience. There are many opportunities that integrate discipleship as well as service. Our long-term goal is that our kids love Christ and love their neighbor, so you want to choose a program that has these components. Simply hanging out at home is unlikely to contribute to maturity. Choosing a gap year should be a family decision.

Before they go

  • Encourage your child to find a believing roommate.

They may not become best friends, but they’re more likely to have the same moral standards. This is crucial because your child can’t always control what will go on in their room. There will be enough adjustments and they don’t need to add a difficult roommate situation to the mix. Right after our granddaughter was accepted to her school, she found a Christian roommate on the college Facebook page and it has proven to be a huge gift.

  • Connect with ministries from day one.

Many campus fellowships host “moving-in day” luncheons for families. Find out if there are some on your campus and sign up to go. It’s a great way to meet other believers the first day. Statistics show that who a student hangs out with their first ten days of school will largely determine what group they align themselves with.

Expect your child to attend a campus fellowship. It’s wise to check out several and then commit to one by the end of the second month of school. The same is true for church. Especially if you’re supporting your child financially, it’s fair to expect this in return.

  • Communicate clearly about financial expectations.

Be clear about extra expenses, credit cards, and who pays for what. This will avoid misunderstanding in the future. It may be wise to write out an agreement.

Along the way

A wise parent will have begun preparing her child to leave for several years. We want to raise independent, confident kids. This involves the turning over of responsibilities along the way. Your high school kids should be doing their own laundry, making and keeping their own appointments, waking themselves up, writing their own thank-you notes. (It’s important to thank those who wrote a recommendation. Gratitude is a character trait, and we need to thank those who take time to help us.)

Teach your teen how to use online resources for reconciling their bank accounts and using a budget app for planning expenses.

Pray and trust

This may be harder for mom and dad than the student. As parents, we’re used to providing for our child. But we have little control over what a college will say. Our child may feel rejected when he is not admitted by a school.  We must remember that God knows our child and He knows what is best for them. He will lead them to the right place. In the final analysis it must be their decision, not ours.

If your child does not get into his first choice, he needs your reassurance that God has a better plan. He may need to rely on your faith — and your faith will be stretched as well. But God does have a plan for your child. And He will cause all things to work together for good as we trust in Him (Romans 8:28).

Although this can be a stressful season, do enjoy the blessings of it. You are about to launch your child whom you have had the privilege of raising. You are entrusting him or her to God in a deeper way. They have the privilege of a good education in a free country. None of us want to lose the perspective that education is a gift.

May God guide you and your child through the process of choosing a college.

"Prayer changes us." Mother Teresa

Some of you may know that we help support a small, diverse group of UVa women who live intentionally on the blurred borders of where the UVa world meets the broader community. This particularly diverse neighborhood, which is feeling the pressure of increased gentrification, has a rich history that the Perkins House has sought to honor. Knowing that prayer is in part listening, they formed a friendship with a local neighbor and are partnering to restore a historic church to create a space for building bridges between the past and present, between black and white, between UVa and the community. They are beginning with a Neighborhood Concert on March 30th.

Mother Teresa once said, "I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things." How might God be leading you to love your neighbor in a radical new way this month? 

GIVE THANKS WITH US FOR:

New friendships with students and community folks.

PLEASE PRAY WITH US FOR:   
UVa Sisters, Noelle McDonald and Norah McDonald, as their father was just diagnosed with a serious illness.

A friend just diagnosed with cancer.

Alison - for work on her dissertation.

Molly's dad as he struggles with a long term illness.

MacKenzie's dad as he fights a serious illness.

Our dear friend Ginny as she fights cancer.

Share your own petition  

PLEASE PRAY FOR THEOLOGICAL HORIZONS:

For our Spring Vintage lunch series on Sheroes & Heroes.

For the recruitment of our Horizons & Perkins Fellows for 2019-20. More here.

Safety over spring break.

-Christy Yates, Associate Director

The Goodwin Prize in Theological Writing is open for submissions

WHERE ARE THE FINEST CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY PROFESSORS OF TOMORROW?  THEY ARE IN GRADUATE SCHOOL TODAY!

The Louise and Richard Goodwin Writing Prize for Excellence in Theological Writing was founded in 2001 to recognize upcoming scholars in the theological field. The writing prize is awarded by the Board of Directors of Theological Horizons, a non-profit corporation fostering reflection and responsibility in the church, the community, and the academy. Awards are given to essays that demonstrate:

  • creative theological thinking,

  • excellence in scholarship,

  • engagement with the Christian tradition, and

  • commitment to the well-being of the church.

Papers are judged through blind submission by three separate readers.

Please email goodwinprize@theologicalhorizons.org for questions.

Click here for submission requirements. Deadline is June 1st.

2018 Prize Winners

The $2,500 prize has been awarded to Joseph McCrave (Boston College) for the essay, "Forgiveness as a Virtue for Transitional Justice Contexts: Towards a Constructive Account."  McCrave’s faculty advisor receives an award of $500.

The $1,000 prize has been awarded to Bryan Ellrod (Emory University) for the essay, “The New Romantics: Authority, Authorship, and the Fragment’s Place in Christian Ethics”.

Chris Hazlaris (Yale Divinity School) has been awarded $500 for the essay, “Redeeming a Sinful Theology of Nature.”

An Honorable Mention of $200 goes to Matthew Wiley (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) for the essay, “Sacramental Theology in a Secular Age: Charles Taylor and the Evangelical Church.”

Past Goodwin Writing Prize Winners

Reflections by Fellow Isabella Hall on our faith & its roots in America

The Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute describes itself as living in the intersection of the seminary and the sanctuary, the streets and the soil. This year’s annual gathering drew a rich assortment of artists, activists, academics, and faith-leaders to the stunning Ojai Valley in Southern California, just northwest of the sprawling metropolis that is the city of Los Angeles in order to engage with issues of “Law, Land, and Language: Indigenous Justice and the Christian Faith.” My time at the week-long institute was, simply put, a gift. It was a tremendous gift—though complicated, messy, and revealing in ways I could not have prepared for. My time at the BKI was as challenging as it was renewing and throughout my stay I found myself wrestling with some of the most devastating aspects of the Christian tradition and our nation’s most incipient origins.

Let me begin with the briefest of history lessons. At the height of the Roman Catholic Church’s power in 1493 (just one year after Columbus sailed the ocean blue) Pope Alexander VI issued a papal bull, a formal declaration, which played a vital role in the Spanish colonization of the Americas as well as the United States’ later westward expansion. Within this papal bull was the notion that any peoples and lands that were, well, not “Christian” were not legitimately recognized as inhabited, sovereign societies and thus, these lands could be “discovered.” This Church mandate, which has come to be called the Doctrine of Discovery 1493, was integral to the colonizing mission which propelled the genocide of countless Native civilizations.[1] It’s impossible to underscore or effectively communicate the gravity of this fact—145 million Indigenous people—destroyed at the hands of a political agenda which all too easily weaponized Christianity and its missional agenda. The rippling implications of this papal bull are too diffuse to even begin to locate and it is absolutely imperative we do not mistake the Doctrine of Discovery as a dusty historical fact. In just 2005, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the Doctrine of Discovery in support of a legal ruling against the Oneidas, a native nation that inhabited an area in upstate New York. The project of colonization continues.

As someone who call themselves a Christian, I feel the deepest sense of duty to understand the history of my tradition, especially the ways in which it has been complicit in the oppression and domination of too many social groups to begin to name here. To be perfectly frank, when I contemplate these aspects of the Church and its history, I often feel disoriented and disheartened in a way that threatens to tear the last remaining threads of my faith from my shaky, uncertain grasp. The prophet Amos wrote, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (5:24). I join the ranks of the weary and the downtrodden, feeling their cries in the deepest parts of my being, “But how long, O Lord?” How long must we wait?

The BKI community is continuously attempting to discern what a decolonized Christian tradition looks like and if there is any hope for such a thing. On the final day of the institute, I sat at breakfast with an Indigenous Elder and seminarian, and exasperatedly asked, “What’s left once you dissolve Christianity from its Western, White, Patriarchal, and Colonial trappings?” She responded, gently and generously with, “The gospel. Jesus is what’s left.”

Jesus—an indigenous man himself—was a native Jew who began his movement in the midst of the oppressive Roman Empire. That’s the Jesus I want to learn from.

[1] For further reading on the Doctrine of Discovery or the history of Christianity in the period of colonization, consider checking out the work of Mark Charles or late Richard Twiss.

Serving with International Neighbors | Reflections by Perkins Fellow Hadassah Muthoka '20

In an environment where busyness is admired and down time is a luxury, it can be difficult to see the beauty in it all. Being at UVA, I had learned to maintain a hectic lifestyle filled with many late nights and strategic planning, but soon began to realize that I was unable to sustain it all. The first semester of my third year proved to be the most taxing mentally, physically, and emotionally. Realizing I would be abroad the following semester, I wanted to do everything, but began to feel like I was not doing anything. I stopped finding the joy or the value in things that were once my passion and that is when I felt my lowest; I did not feel fulfilled. Yet in the midst of it all, I found joy and learned an important lesson through the work I did with International Neighbors . When I committed to this organization via my service as a Perkins Fellow, I would have never guessed the sheer blessing in disguise. 

I first started serving with International Neighbors not knowing what role I would assume. The ability to work with refugee and migrant families is what initially drew me in. It was an embodiment of a passion I had longed to delve into. A few weeks into the fall semester, I was asked to help out a refugee family by tutoring their young daughter, Grace. My first thought was, “Oh my goodness, I have never actually taught anything before!” My second thought was the benefits the experience could offer me, so I definitively said yes. It would be once a week for three hours. Not an unmanageable commitment in my eyes. 

Unfortunately, when the burnout from over-commitment unsurprisingly came part-way through the semester, I found myself beginning to falter. It came to a point where truthfully, I did not want to do anything at all. I was worn out and depressed. However, something changed the day when I went to pick up Grace to begin our normal routine. While waiting for her to gather her things, I sat down with her father. He began explaining how much Grace had been improving and proceeded to show me a letter from her teacher verifying just that. I remember feeling a lot of emotions, yet it was there that I also realized something I wish I had a long time before. This was not about me or my feelings. This was about how I would let God use me to serve and bless others. Going in, it was about being able to serve my community, but subconsciously there was also a desire to serve myself. Whether many like to admit it or not, all too often we turn our acts of service into means for our own gratification. Once the self-gratification stops, the work begins depreciating in value. This is what I had been focused on year after year, semester after semester and it brought me nowhere.

Something I seemed to forget was God’s calling for his children to serve and the promises he has in store when we obey and follow. Despite what we may feel, when we do things under the guidance of God, there is comfort in the fact that our work will never be in vain (Luke 6:38). Simultaneously, our serving spreads blessings to others beyond what we can initially imagine. I began laying side expectations and desires for myself and finding my strength and fulfillment in God, I saw my attitude and life beginning to change. Grace and her family proved to be a bigger blessing to me than I could have been to them, and I can not thank them enough. As I pursue new acts of service, I aim to keep this calling at the forefront of it all.

Anything Dead Coming Back to Life Hurts | Reflections by Cynthia Ajuzie '19

If I’ve realized anything about being at UVa the past four years, it’s that one of my favorite quotes from Toni Morrison’s Beloved holds true. The quote is “Anything dead coming back to life hurts”. (Slight digression: I wasn’t sure if I should write this blog post about how college has further solidified my identity as a Nigerian-American woman, but I often need to my remind myself that being black is only one story that streaks my life and that God has given me many other stories that deserve attention too.)

Merely a few weeks into my fall semester as a third year, I quickly noticed how difficult it was for me to stay on top of my workload. However, I thought that my struggles were just going to be something I overcame by working hard and being strategic with the time I spent studying. School had always been something I felt completely in control of and believed I could excel at with the right efforts, so I didn’t worry too much about my rigorous course load. The night before my first exam rolled around and I remember reviewing notes in my room, trying to elucidate concepts that were still blurry to me. Once I realized that information was no longer sticking in my head, I decided to go to bed. The only problem was that after I did get in bed, I couldn’t sleep. My mind continued strumming through concepts I didn’t understand and my heart felt squeamish in my chest. By 2:30 a.m., I figured I should probably try to talk to someone to see if that would get my mind off of things. I called my mom, who works night shifts as a nurse, and she tried to calm me down for a few minutes. It was comforting hearing her voice and being reminded that my heart and thoughts were not the only sounds that sloshed the earth.

I viewed that night of not sleeping as a fluke that would certainly not happen again because I’d be more diligent in making sure I got to bed earlier at a consistent time each night. However, even with my efforts to apply better sleep hygiene to my life, I continued struggling with anxiety and insomnia multiple times a week. Lying in bed exhausted in the middle of the night, feeling betrayed by and unfamiliar to your own body is one of the worst feelings I have come to know in my life. Insomnia descended me into a pit of loneliness, fashioned by anxiety and I was so unaware of how to plow myself out of it. Many activities that I used to enjoy became lackluster and I dreaded having things to do that would require a lot of energy/thinking. I felt like a walking silhouette of who I knew I was.

Desperately wanting to improve my compromised mental health and not wanting to turn to my parents for help (who come from a culture that struggles with legitimizing mental health issues), I began trying to think of ways to fix myself. I visited CAPs, looked up organic remedies to insomnia, sought prayer from my housemates, bought religious self-help books for sleeping disorders, and had my sister stay on the phone with me some nights in hopes that it would help me sleep better. Nothing seemed to be working long term. With my frustration towards myself and God mounting, I resolved to accept the fact that insomnia had woven it’s way into my life and I’d just have to make room for it on my bed most nights.

The night before my biggest final that semester, I began hearing strongly from God. I was on the floor in the room of one of my housemates who had struggled with insomnia one summer and told me I could stay in her room, so I wouldn’t feel as lonely, while she played worship instrumental music to see if that would help me sleep better. After she had fallen asleep and I was still wide-awake ready for the sun to sprout in a bit, I felt the Lord drop this poem in my spirit based on Psalm 23.

It is well with my soul

For the Lord is so faithful and gracious

He makes me lie down in still pastures

And allows my joy to overflow in abundance

He gives me reasons to sing

He calms my spirit

He gives me strength

He is my strength

After I received those words, I felt lighter. It’s interesting how easily we make room for our struggles to ingest more and more of our lives until something - an epiphany or encouraging word- reminds us that those struggles do not have to permanently suffocate who we are as people. God is our reminder of this fact. And He does it so well. He meets us right where we are, just like He met me in that moment, and tells us that there is hope. He is hope.

I’d be lying if I said that night was the last time I experienced sleeplessness. But, it was the last night I viewed insomnia as some insurmountable entity that characterized all of me. That poem God deposited into my soul made me realize two things:

  1. God is always faithful and his faithfulness is noticeable if we actually open our eyes to see it

  2. God wanted me to stop being so close-fisted with my studies/ future and to relinquish those parts of my life to Him

After I made these realizations, I felt a peace that I had not felt in months. I allowed myself to indulge in the kindness and graciousness of God unrestrainedly. Experiencing a semester racked with sleeplessness and anxiety made me notice how God is a high tower for those who seek Him. His hands are strong enough to carry all of our burdens and His love is deep enough for Him to actually want to carry them. Nights can still be difficult for me, but not as often anymore because of my confidence in God’s faithfulness and his desire to give me rest. I had to go through one of the most difficult seasons in my life for God to revive who I am in him and for him to truly make me a new creation.

John 14:27, Philippians 4:7, John 1:5, 1Peter 5:7-10


The call to Lament | Reflections by Fellow Robert Cross '19

Last year the church that I attend in Charlottesville, Trinity Presbyterian, had a sermon series on the book of Lamentations. At first I was curious and a bit skeptical — isn’t “lament” just a biblical word for being sad? Will studying this Old Testament book be fruitful? Of course, I was wrong. Lament is integral to healing and is present throughout the Bible. After a semester of orienting our worship toward lamentation, I began to see the beauty and difficulty of lamenting.

One of my favorite parts of this process was a song I was introduced to, “How Long?” by Bifrost Arts. It's on an album of lamentation which cries out for wholeness in a broken world.  

How long? Will you turn your face away?

This is the first line of “How Long?” and it honestly and unapologetically calls out to God, mirroring the Psalms of lament. God wants our honest and open hearts.

Over the past year, I've encountered brokenness, sadness, and injustice in the world and have felt hopeless in its face. I’ve learned that lamentation requires that we name the hurt and cry to God for help. For me, this often means listening to others and learning from people around me, so I can join in their struggles for justice.

I took a class this past semester about the history of race and real estate in the United States, and it exposed me to a part of our nation's past I haven't encountered before, one of racism and quiet, insidious exclusion. My after-class conversations with another Fellow, Lindsay, lamented the remnants of past injustice and the reality of our broken world. We ended each conversation with more questions than answers, but in this small way we began to lament.  

This wasn't easy, but we continually tried to understand our place in this pain and in its healing.

Amen, Jesus, come! 

“How Long?” ends with the repeated refrain, “Amen, Jesus, come!” When we sing it at Trinity, we start quietly and end with powerful drums and bright tambourines. It gives me chills every time we sing it, because this movement reflects how we must lament. We may begin in fear and sadness, but we end with hope and faith.

As I approach the pain and brokenness in this world, it’s easy to become hopeless. The relationships we’re in, the families we love, and the systems we’re a part of are all broken and we see this -- and feel this -- deeply. After some conversations with Lindsay after class, I could only say, “Amen, Jesus, come!”

I don't know how to approach all the pain in our world. There’s too much of it for one person to bear (like Ms. May in The Secret Life of Bees), but it’s our job to enter into our own and otherss’ suffering as we cry for Jesus’ will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So, while I begin this lifetime of joyful and hopeful lamenting, I can work to return His creation to wholeness with the hope that Jesus will one day wipe every tear from our eye. He is making all things new. In Him alone is our hope.

Before the Rush resources

Sorority rush begins at UVa soon--a process that sparks many urgent questions:  Who are my friends?  Where do I find my identity?  Am I beautiful?  How do I deal with stress and disappointment?  with judgement?  Where is God in all of this?  These are questions that we all ask throughout our lives! 

As students return to the university, we want share two precious resources: short audio talks that are just one click away.  Listen to these talks from our past "Beat The Rush" events.
 
These talks for ALL women students--whether you are rushing a sorority, in a sorority already, not in a sorority!  Like me, you are seeking love, acceptance, friendship...and struggling with insecurity, fear and doubts.  It is so important to be reminded of how very beautiful and loved you are.  So do yourself a favor and listen up...
 
The first talk is by Susan Cunningham on "Finding Your True Identity".  Susan was named Best Psychologist in Charlottesville, and her words are so wise and so kind...Don't miss the truth about who YOU really are.   Click HERE to listen to Susan's talk.
 
The second talk is by Miska Collier on "Knowing the Light and Love of God".  Miska is a spiritual counselor--30 seconds into her talk you'll be hooked.  Click HERE to listen to Miska's talk.

 

A blessing for the New Year | John O'Donohue

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

-John O’Donohue

[Note: "Beannacht" is the Gaelic word for "blessing." A "currach" is a large boat used on the west coast of Ireland.]

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Nick, Catherine, Leslie & Matthew Merrick

Nick, Catherine, Leslie & Matthew Merrick

#1 the Merrick Family

As parents, we expected Theological Horizons to equip our three kids (UVa '15, '20 and '21) for a deeper consideration of faith.  To our surprise, we ourselves have been equipped for those same spiritual conversations.  Our Dallas book club uses Karen’s Vintage Saints & Sinners, along with her small group guides.  As we explore the ways famous (and not so famous) Christians found faith and lived out their convictions, we study, argue, learn and grow. 

 Who knew that Theological Horizons--a ministry we support from 1000 miles away---would have a deep influence on us, too, beautifully enriching our own intellectual and spiritual lives?

—Leslie Merrick, TH Board member & UVa alumna

 Find the free small group guides at https://karenwrightmarsh.com/vintage-sessions/

Cynthia Ajuzie, Horizons Fellow ‘19

Cynthia Ajuzie, Horizons Fellow ‘19

#2 Cynthia Ajuzie, Horizons Fellow ‘19

Too often, our society requires us clothe ourselves in armor, afraid of the darts that someone will throw at us for holding opinions that may differ from theirs.  Theological Horizons conversations are beautifully fearless. People are able to leave their hearts exposed, even when they talk with one another about important, even heavy topics.   

 I can adopt a heart-on-sleeve attitude with people in Theological Horizons, unafraid, because I know that my thoughts, however varying, will be received with nothing less than love and compassion. And I find this truly beautiful.

Nadine Michel, Horizons Fellow Mentor & M.D./Ph.D. candidate

Nadine Michel, Horizons Fellow Mentor & M.D./Ph.D. candidate

#3 Nadine Michel, Horizons Fellow Mentor

There’s an honesty to Theological Horizons conversations that I appreciate. People are vulnerable; they genuinely care about where you’re from, how you’re doing, and what your life experiences have been like. After talking to someone from Theological Horizons, I always find myself seeing patterns of God’s work in my life—prompted by the questions they’ve asked me, questions that made me reflect on a much deeper level. Community like this is rare and I truly cherish it.

Emily and Anthony Lazaro with Annalivia, Mattie (the pup), James and Milly

Emily and Anthony Lazaro with Annalivia, Mattie (the pup), James and Milly

#4 The Lazaro Family

What keeps me coming back to Theological Horizons both as a Board member and as a friend is the way they offer what our culture so desperately needs: conversations that cut below the surface, that speak to enduring truths about the Christian story, and that offer authentic spaces to be known and loved.

—Anthony Lazaro, TH Board member & UVa alumnus

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Let it snow! Peter, Ginger & Anna in the Bonhoeffer House library

Let it snow! Peter, Ginger & Anna in the Bonhoeffer House library