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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) 

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.

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.

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.

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

Vulnerability & Community in the Whirlwinds | Reflections by Zach Balcomb '19

Recently, I find myself using the word whirlwind a lot... And by a lot I mean probably too much. I use it to describe the feeling of being a fourth year at UVa (i.e., a person with little time remaining in a place they’ve come to know and love) but also the feeling of trying to hang plants in my room. Obviously, these scenarios do not share the same emotional gravity, but I think my liberal usage of the term is significant to the state of my heart over the past few months.

In stressful moments, even those of an undeniably fleeting or trivial nature, anxiety has quietly crept in and occupied empty spaces in my heart. On the one hand, it’s easy to attribute this anxiety to the harsh reality that looms over all of us fourth years who have yet to figure out the next step. On the other hand, I would say that under the surface of the things that worry me, such as an unforeseeable post-grad life, anxiety arises from a sinful tendency that is often overlooked: resistance to vulnerability. It is from this resistance which anxiety has found a foothold in my life and “whirlwind” has become my new buzzword.

At the Horizons Fellows Retreat a few weeks ago, however, I experienced the beginning of a reset—I was reminded of my capacity and desire for spiritual vulnerability with others. I found joy in being in a transparent community, and I learned that when honesty has a place at the table in religious spaces, those spaces become more Holy. During the retreat, held at a Christian retreat center called Corhaven Farm, Fellows broke bread and laughed together. We snuggled up in blankets and sipped freshly-steeped tea. We pet docile, little donkeys and big, amiable cows (many of us, like me, admired them from afar). And finally, with crackling firewood and the sweet smell of s’mores as our backdrop, we took turns sharing our stories.

Our stories did not have to conform to a specific length or format, which I found so freeing. Growing up, I thought my story had to mirror what I had come to know as the archetype for a Christian testimony: a rip-roaring turn of events eclipsed by the earth shattering aha moment where “everything clicked.” Instead, I heard beautifully honest impressions on life and how people have come into relationship with their Creator over time. I heard people share things they have never before shared for fear of being judged or written off. More importantly, I saw people respond to these stories with kindness and an openness to learn.

In between storytelling, Fellows got to hear from Rev. Bill Haley, who taught us that we are to “cultivate relationship with the One who calls, so that when we are called we can respond efficiently.” We discussed the meaning of vocation, or more appropriately vocations, uncovering how they may not manifest in a paid position after graduation, but rather in how we bring God’s presence to the world. We listened and learned about the history behind the land upon which Corhaven is situated, which happens to include a cemetery where at least 25 black people who died as enslaved laborers now rest. As we explored the cemetery, which is now a memorial honoring the brothers and sisters who lay there, we grieved and prayed for an end to the 375-year reign of racial oppression in our country that still exists today.

In each of the aforementioned experiences, I felt our little cohort of Fellows displayed a level of transparency and celebration of difference that I have never before witnessed in a Christian circle. As interactions and conversations unfolded in this way, I felt spaces in my heart—once paralyzed with anxious energy—begin to breathe again.

Is your nest emptying? Guest post by Susan Yates

This is a guest post by the author/speaker Susan Yates. Email this post to a friend and CC us (christy@theologicalhorizons.org) and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a copy of Susan and Barbara Rainey's book for both you and your friend!

Are you getting ready to send a child off to college or preparing to send your youngest to all day school? Or have you just had a wedding? If so, you may be an emotional mess. The empty nest hits us in different ways, at different times, and often when we least expect it!

How well I remember dropping our last child Susy off at college and beginning the long drive home. The week before, we had left her twin sister Libby at another college so not only was I sending off my last two at once, but it was the first time the girls, who are very close, had been separated. My husband John thought this would be a celebration of sorts for us! All those years of daily parenting five children would be finished and now we could focus more on us. So he planned an overnight on the drive home at a romantic lodge in the mountains. Ha.

As we pulled away from the college campus my tears started to flow. I felt like my life was over. My main job of parenting was done. What was my purpose to be now? I ached for the sadness the girls were experiencing in being separated. It had been their idea to go to different colleges but none of us anticipated the pain this would cause. In the midst of my tears I tried to explain my feelings to my husband. Feelings I couldn’t even understand. I felt lonely in my misery. I felt guilty. After all, this was a good thing! And I had a great husband who was trying to please me. Yet I was miserable. Needless to say our romantic getaway wasn’t very romantic!

You may not experience sadness at having just sent a child off. In fact you may be thrilled. Each one of us is different and we never know when the emotions of the empty nest will hit us. It may not be until your last child is married. Or you may grieve when they begin high school. This season is not neat. It’s messy. And there’s not much written about it to guide us through it. But God does have a new plan for each of us as we approach the empty nest. And it is exciting.

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If you are about to drop off your college freshman here are 4 great tips:

  1. Before you go to campus research the fellowship groups on the campus. Groups like Cru, RUF, Christian Study Centers, Navigators, IV. Find out when and where they meet and tell your child that you want them to visit two at least twice and then join one. The same thing applies to church. Visit 2 and then commit to the one that feels right. This should be a clear expectation, similar to going to class. You are likely financing some of their costs and you have a right to make this a condition. They should commit to a fellowship group and a church within the first 2 months. Statistics show that the first 10 days of college life are crucial in determining what “group” your student will hang out with. We want to encourage our kids to seek healthy relationships.
  2. Many college fellowships have move-in day luncheons. Sign up to attend one. You and your child will meet other believers and hear about fellowship groups on campus. The Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, VA has one such lunch that my daughter Libby and I helped start nearly 20 years ago! 
  3. When you move in wear a t-shirt from a Christian camp or some logo. When our daughter Libby moved into her dorm she had on a Young Life t-shirt. Another girl moving in recognized this and the girls realized they were both believers. This was a huge connection for their first day!
  4. Be positive, even if you are sad and your child is too. Communicate to your child that he or she is about to begin a great adventure and it is good! And continue to pray daily for them and for their friendships.

Barbara Rainey and I wrote a book which deals with various challenges of the empty nest including loneliness, redefining marriage, how to let go of your child, etc. The book contains a 4-session group study. We hope you will invite some friends to join you in an Empty Nest book club.