In Summer 2009, after 6 years of marriage, my wife and I had our first summer “free” as a couple. Prior to that, every summer was some combination of moving, taking new jobs, and (mostly) doing graduate work. Ruthie approached me one evening about possibly going on a road trip, to which I was agreeable.

Now, those of you that know my wife professionally probably know what happened next. Within a few hours, we had a detailed day-by-day travel itinerary, reservations (when needed), a budget, places to stay for free with various family members, and planned activities for a 20-day road trip, all laid out graphically in a variety of calendars, charts, and maps. In other words, I was pretty much locked into taking this trip, which is OK, because it turned out to be one of greatest (if not the greatest) experiences of my life. Here was the approximated route (you might need to click on the picture to get the mileage details):

Week13 Trip Map

(Essentially, our only costs were for gas, because nearly every night of the trip we stayed either with one of Ruthie’s family members or in a tent in a state or national park.)

I often reference this trip in my courses because of the wide variety of experiences that I encountered; here are a few:

There was this big pothole we had to drive around in Arizona.

There was this big pothole we had to drive around in Arizona.

"I wish I were big."

“I wish I were big.”

One of the most surprising things on the trip was this AWESOME woodworking shop in the middle of an Oregon forest.

One of the most surprising things on the trip was this AWESOME woodworking shop in the middle of an Oregon forest.

My wife felt progressively sicker the longer we stayed at Yellowstone; turns out it probably wasn't the best place to take someone with a sulphate allergy (within an hour of leaving the park she felt nearly completely better).

My wife felt progressively sicker the longer we stayed at Yellowstone; turns out it probably wasn’t the best place to take someone with a sulphate allergy (within an hour of leaving the park she felt nearly completely better).

This trip had tremendous benefits to me individually and to my wife and I as a couple. I think about elements of this journey often, and I look forward to a time when we can do a similar, walking/exercise/adventure-heavy vacation with our children; I figure in about ten years.

In May 2013, as I was getting into my car to go to work, my key chain broke. This normally would not be all that significant of an event; trinkets like a mere key chain break all of the time.

However, this was personally significant for me. (I feel like this is the point that I should lay down on a couch to tell you the rest of this story.)

My sophomore year in high school, I was still felt very socially outcast, and while I tried to be kind and helpful to people, I rarely felt as if that affection was reciprocated. Now given, it probably was, but I was not as confident as I am (or feign) now so I probably just didn’t pick up on it.

So anyway, every year the women’s basketball team at Avinger would pick a “basketball beau” and the men’s team would pick a “basketball sweetheart”, and there was a little ceremony at a game and it was a kinda sweet deal. Basically, it was like a poor man’s homecoming king and queen, except based on “showing the most support for the basketball team of the opposite sex.” So, we get to the game in which this award is given, and shockingly, I received it. For one of the first times as a teenager, I felt genuine acceptance from a group of my peers. It also helped my confidence that it was girls that did the voting. ☺

As part of the award, I got a really nice key chain engraved “AHS BEAU”. For 16 years (fully half of my life) that was the key chain that I used for all of my keys; only my wife really ever realized it, and probably only then because a couple of years ago the mechanical latch that allowed you to separate its two key rings broke and I futilely tried to have it repaired.

Week13 Key ChainWell, on that day in May 2013, the key chain itself just broke, with the metal holding the ring itself simply falling off from wear. There was no going back. For the first 30 minutes or so of my day, I was really bummed out.

Then something interesting happened: I sat down to manipulate keys on the two “plain” key rings that were left, and I discovered that the keys now fit better. It turns out that over the previous several weeks my keys had been stabbing me in the leg, and I’d actually examined how I could lessen the number of keys themselves. While all of the keys were deemed essential and I continued on with things jabbing into my leg, I’d never once thought for a split second that removing the “AHS BEAU” keychain could ease my burden, but it did.

I was so blindly holding onto this little thing from the past that I was unable to realize that it was actually what was causing all of my pain.

1 Corinthians 13:11

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me”

Today’s blog is about the past.

Sometimes the past is full of triumphs, adventures, and great lessons that we can use to drive our future.

At the same time, sometimes the tiny things from our past that we cling to are the very things that are the source of our troubles. I see this each semester in students that cannot escape some element of their past experiences, and instead they are forever dragged down by things that can never be changed (short of building a time machine).

As professors and advisors, we must help our students identify those things from the past worth remembering and celebrating, while at the same time working to identify those things from the past that serve only to pull them down, restricting them from reaching God’s ultimate purposes for their lives.


Ride the Storm

About this time every year, I start seeing more and more students with a perpetual scowl on their faces. Never mind that Thanksgiving Break is just around the corner – these students are STRESSED!

Photo Credit: Amy McTigue via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Amy McTigue via Compfight cc

Maybe you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of homework and projects, or you just can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Regardless, most students (and professors!) experience some tension about this time of the semester.

But if we are followers of Christ, and truly trust God, what is there to be worried about?

I’m talking to myself just as much as anyone right now… it is so easy to try and control everything and worry that it won’t work out.

Did I study hard enough for this test? Did I work hard enough on this report? Will they like it? Will people be disappointed in me? What should I do now? How am I going to fix this problem?….

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us alone to flounder under the pressure.

Check out Psalm 55:22-23 (MSG)

Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin.
But you, God, will throw the others
    into a muddy bog,
Cut the lifespan of assassins
    and traitors in half.

And I trust in you.

Pretty cool, right?

I can’t say that I personally know many assassins, but it is comforting to know that God has a plan to cut their lifespans short!

There are lots of “Christian-ese” phrases that point to the fact that we already know we’re not supposed to worry, and that instead we should trust God:

  • Put your trust in the Lord
  • Let go, and let God
  • When God closes a door, He opens a window
  • God never gives us more than we can handle

You can probably think of some more yourself.

But when was the last time you said that to yourself in the middle of a freak-out? And even if you did, did it stop you from worrying?

This church sign points out that every Christian already knows we are supposed to trust God, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Photo Credit: Joshua Daniel O. via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Joshua Daniel O. via Compfight cc

So, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone when you feel pressure.

Also, you’re not alone when you struggle to stop worrying and trust God.

You may feel alone if you’re fighting to do well in classes, but you don’t have to! Every ETBU professor would love to help a student in trouble. All you have to do is ask!

I read something online today that told the story of a one-fingered king. The king cursed God, blaming Him for the loss of a finger. What the king didn’t know what that God planned to save his life all along – He just used the lack of a finger to do it!

Photo Credit: tim caynes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tim caynes via Compfight cc

The point of that story, and my post, is that it’s important for us to remember that we don’t know God’s plan for our lives.

When it seems like stuff is going wrong and there’s no way out, it may be exactly there God wants you!

The best thing all of us can do is try and ride the storm, and keep trusting that God will work everything out like He wants it!


Denominations in an Age of Globalization

In Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything authors Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams write, “stability is dead.  The idea that you can invent a business that will never be disrupted by technology is over.”  Tapscott and Williams welcome us into an age of globalization, an age of disruption, an age of flux and fluidity, an age driven by an accelerating growth of technology, an age that is creating global platforms, global access points and global citizens.

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc

We live in an age of globalization.  This reality really needs no introduction.  And in the age of globalization stability is dead.

This is as true for denominations as it is for churches, ministries and corporations.

This week I will be leading a group of students from East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) to the annual gathering of the Baptist General Convention of Texas as part of an ongoing effort to instill a vision of collaborative partnership.  While teaching at ETBU I consistently challenge our students to seek to develop the skills necessary to live, listen and lead as global leaders.  If it is true that we are living in an age of globalization it is essential our educational models and denominational platforms continue to adapt accordingly.  An age of globalization demands globalized denominations.

Towards this end three broad principles are applicable.

First, in an age of globalization denominations must pursue open structures and mass collaboration. 

In the twenty-first century, to return to Tapscott and Williams, “we must collaborate or perish – across borders, cultures, disciplines, and firms, and increasingly with masses of people at one time.”  This is an age of participation.  Millions of individuals connect with each other on Facebook; post pictures on Instagram; record and upload movies on YouTube; and tweet their vote for their favorite singing contestants.  Participation is driven by individuals who anticipate that they will be able to contribute their voice, their perspective, their talents and their passion.  Individuals are not only looking to talk to the many, they are looking to connect with the many in order to foster partnerships that identify issues, solve problems and contribute towards a better society.

In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman notes, “while the dynamic force in Globalization 1.0 was countries globalizing and the dynamic force in Globalization 2.0 was companies globalizing, the dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 – the force that gives it its unique character – is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally.”  The same might be said of churches.

What would it mean for a denomination to be based on an open structure?  An open structure might imply at least the following:

Ongoing Transparency and Information Exchange.  In an age when companies, churches and denominations have lost the ability to command absolute loyalty, one currency remains: trust.  The denominations that will be transformative in an age of globalization will be those that foster a sense of trust between the participants and the denomination and between the participants themselves.  This will require new levels of transparency and all the more so as denominations look to sell, lease or otherwise relocate traditional headquarters.

Very Low Barriers to Participation.  Individuals should be empowered to freely join in the conversation and freely contribute towards the fulfillment of common goals and objectives.  A low barrier of participation is different than low accountability.  A low barrier to participation allows early engagement in the design process.  As a simplistic example, perhaps denominations could use crowd sourcing models to determine break-out sessions and speakers for annual meetings.  An open structure is built around a model actively encouraging participation and interaction by as many individuals as possible.  This will inevitably cause a shift away from a model of centralized hierarchy to one that is more fluid and more genuinely shares control.  Every denomination must ask how to make their organization more of a platform for participation and innovation development?

Second, in an age of globalization denominations must lead through networks that are at all times local, regional and global.

Photo Credit: Melissa Marques via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Melissa Marques via Compfight cc

Several years ago in an edition of Foreign Affairs, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote, “In the twenty-first century, corporations, civic organizations, and government agencies will increasingly operate by collecting the best ideas from around the globe.  In such an environment, it is critical not only to stimulate domestic innovation but also to foster networks that can produce collaborative innovations across the globe.”  She continues, “In this century, global power will increasingly be defined by connections – who is connected to whom and for what purposes.”

Leadership in a globalized context requires the building and activation of networks and the reframing of needs, talents, ministry and opportunities into one that simultaneously embraces the local, regional and global.

This is all the more pressing given the increasingly urban reality of polyglots and multiculturalism.  Mass immigration is altering our communities and heightening the interconnectivity of the world.  A recent blog I wrote, for example, highlighted how a group of Eritrean refugee churches in Texas tendered a request that eventually lead to human rights documentation being submitted to multiple governments around the world and formal representation by a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship partner working on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance at the recent Universal Periodic Review of Eritrea by the United Nations in Geneva.  In an age of global networks fostering connections among and between ethnic churches must be seen as a denominational priority.

Denominations should also look to increasingly share information, resources and personnel.  This will likely result in more decentralized organizations and an increase in individual specialists who are employed and shared by several organizations.  One helpful model is the work of the North American Baptist Fellowship’s Disaster Relief Network.  Additional pan-denominational networks are needed.  Among Baptists perhaps no new network is needed as is the establishment of an international religious freedom network.

Third, in an age of globalization denominations must live prophetically. 

Denominations must view prophetic witness, especially in areas of social justice, as critical.  In this age of globalization denominations must ask again what it means to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.



A note for the email recipients of today’s blog: to get the full effect you will want to actually go to the website today, as there are several pictures.

Week12 ReminderBut first, some house cleaning. Waaay back in Week 6 of this semester (which published on October 3rd), I threw out a challenge; when discussing some stories Alan Huesing was telling me I wrote:

“The stories almost seemed fake; I half-expected him to tell me about how he rode a unicorn through Mordor on his way to blow up the Death Star. (Just thinking about that makes me giggle. The first person that Photoshops that image together and adds it to the comments gets at least $20 from me.)”

Well, to my surprise I was checking through my Facebook messages earlier this week and there was one un-checked message from October 6th that I had somehow missed; Facebook had filed it under “Other”. Here are its contents.

Awesome Photoshop? $20.  Hours of uncontrolled giggling? Priceless.

Awesome Photoshop? $20.
Hours of uncontrolled giggling? Priceless.

I am a man of my word. Although not posted in the comments of the blog, the $20 has been paid out in full. Good job, mystery artist.

Always Something There to Remind Me

I think it is important to remind yourself of different things. Pre-iPad, I would have sticky notes and ¼ pieces of paper everywhere on my desk and office, just to keep me on the right track. As busy as I am now, I was infinitely busier a couple of years ago, to the point that my office would sometimes look like that barn from A Beautiful Mind (note: I literally spent hours looking for a video of that scene…no luck; if you saw the movie you know what I mean).

With the iPad “Notes” app and now the “Reminders” app I use on my phone, I can keep organized with significantly less clutter. That said, I think beyond continuing to “Write it down so you don’t forget”, it is also important to keep around tangible reminders: of things that are important to you, of things that inspire you, of things that bring a smile to your face, of things that you love, of successes, and of losses.

I keep many things like this in my office:

Now, while these items do admittedly contribute to the clutter of my office, they are also all very important, as they do commemorate different points of my life.

However, keeping tangible reminders is exactly what the Israelites did when they crossed the Jordan and set up the 12 stones:

Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

In the same way, we need to find tangible ways to remember what it important so that we can always maintain the most-Godly perspective possible.


Where have all the voters gone?

What have you done this week? Taken some tests, wrote some papers, run it the Color Run? Impacted our country’s future?

It is no secret that the federal government may not have considered how busy the month of November is for college students when choosing an election day.

I know everyone is SUPER busy right now but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to not vote!

On election day (which was 11/3 if you didn’t know), I was very saddened to find out how many of my students did not vote, and didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. Maybe you’re thinking that it’s too late for a “get out the vote” blog post, but I think it’s time to rally the troops and get people excited, ready, and prepared for the Presidential election in 2016!

You said you’re too busy, right? Maybe you need this much time to prep!

So, here are my top reasons why all ETBU students should vote and why politics matters to you:

  • You are at least 18, which means you’re old enough.
  • You are (probably) a Christian, and it’s your job to make sure God’s will is carried out as much as possible.
  • There were some vary diverse candidates elected a few days ago, so you have no excuse to think politics is just for old white guys.

Allow me to elaborate… Let’s start with reason 1: You are at least 18, which means you’re old enough

Lots of things happen when you turn 18 (or around there at least). You graduate high school, maybe you start college, men at eligible to be drafted, and everyone can vote!

Voting is really a pretty big plus about living in America right now. If you think back in history, we left England because we didn’t feel like our voices were being heard, and lots and lots of protesting was done to make sure that EVERYONE (no matter the race or the sex) can vote.

Don’t you feel like you owe it to all those people to take 15 minutes and have your opinion counted?

Reason 2 that ETBU students should vote: You are (probably) a Christian, and it’s your job to make sure God’s will is carried out as much as possible.

The word “vote” is no where to be found in the Bible. It was written 1000s of years ago – cut them some slack!

But that doesn’t mean that the idea of electing good Christian leaders and praying for them isn’t there.

Take Proverbs 28:12, which warns us of what happens when we have godless leadership:

12 When those who are right with God win, there is great honor, but when the sinful rule, men hide themselves.

If Christians sit back and don’t vote -for whatever reason- how can we expect to have God fearing people leading our country?

Finally, Reason 3 of why ETBU students should vote: There were some vary diverse candidates elected a few days ago, so you have no excuse to think politics is just for old white guys.

First of all, Joni Ernst was elected to the senate in Iowa on Tuesday. That’s a big deal because she’s the first female senator from Iowa, and she’s a veteran. That makes her also the first female veteran to be in senate!

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Compfight cc

 Also, Tim Scott is the first black senator to be elected in the entire South since Reconstruction ended in 1877!! He was elected in South Carolina on Tuesday.

There are a lot of other impressive firsts from this Midterm election, but I’ve saved my favorite for last:

 Most impressively, 18 year old college freshman Saira Blair was elected to the House of Representatives on Tuesday. She is either the same age or younger than almost every ETBU student! Are any of y’all thinking of running for Congress soon?

I need to provide a small disclaimer… I have not researched the views or plans for any of these candidates. They might not align with my own views, or yours, and they might not be Christians.

By writing this post, I don’t mean to show support (or not) for any of these candidates. All I’m saying is that there is a whole lot that college students can relate to in politics right now. It is important to be involved, stay informed, and have your vote counted.

Exciting things are happening! Don’t you want to be a part of it?

Voting in Texas really isn’t too difficult. To make sure you are prepared for the 2016 elections, follow these simple steps:

  1. Go here and register to vote! You will then get a Voter Registration Card in the mail.
  2. Grab your Drivers License or Passport for ID
  3. Go vote! Your polling place is listed on your Voter Registration Card, or you can find it online by entering your zip code on this website.

If you are attending school away from home, you will need to fill out an “absentee ballot” meaning you will send it in the mail before election day.

If you still have questions, check out the Helpful Hints on Voting Early by Mail from the website.

I think that about covers it! Now you have NO REASON to not vote in the 2016 Presidential election! It’s God’s will after all…

Eritrea: Twenty Years of Oppression

This past week students at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) celebrated a night of praise and prayer on behalf of persecuted religious minorities worldwide and in particular sought to raise awareness about the plight of Christians in Eritrea.

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

76% of the world’s population, or 5.3 billion people, live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion.

According to a 2014 Pew Forum report, “social hostilities involving religion [have]] reached a six-year peak.”

One of the worst oppressors of religious minorities in the world is Eritrea.  For more than two decades President Isaias Afwerki and the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) have systematically committed flagrant abuses of human rights.  While violations remain pervasive, perhaps no community has suffered more thoroughly and completely than the numerous adherents of a variety of religious communities deemed unacceptable by the illiberal government.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom documented in its most recent report that Eritrea is currently holding 2,000 to 3,000 religious prisoners on religious grounds.

Individuals held in violation of freedom of religion are consistently denied rights of due process, access to legal counsel and even basic medical aid.  They are imprisoned alongside numerous others in deplorable conditions including overcrowded facilities with scarce food and potable water, underground bunkers and caves, and metal containers housed in the desert causing prisoners to “experience extremes of high and low temperatures.”  One former Barentu detainee described confinement in a room with dimensions approximately eight by ten feet, a low ceiling of six and a half feet and a temperature reaching near 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thirty-three individuals were simultaneously housed in this room.

Former detainees describe government utilization of a technique binding the hands and feet of individuals behind their back in a position known as “the helicopter.”  One Christian refugee recounted a harrowing experience of being fastened into “the helicopter” position for 136 hours in an effort to force faith repudiation.

Following field research conducted in June, this past semester the Freedom Center at ETBU has been promoting teaching, research and awareness about the situation of persecuted religious minorities in Eritrea.  Graduating senior Travis Nicks has transcribed sixteen firsthand accounts of the realities faced by evangelical believers, a Muslim dissident, and a former child soldier.

This new research further reveals a systematic violation of human rights including harsh imprisonment practices, burning of Bibles by the military and forced conscription of children.

One such testimony shared by a young female recounted how she was imprisoned for her belief in Jesus as a twelve year old girl:

The story of my imprisonment begins when some brothers were taken to jail because they were found praying together.  When I was twelve years old my family sent me to those brothers to take them some food and clothing.  The police asked me if I was a Christian and I said “yes,” and so they took me inside the jail as a twelve year old… We stayed there for less than two weeks until they transferred us to Wi’A underground prison near Massawa Port around the coastal area.  The coastal area is mostly desert and extremely hot – so hot in fact that the prisoners are held in underground cells…

For two months we stayed in this underground facility – I being only a twelve year old.  I was sick most of the time I was in jail, and they did not give me any medicine, but instead they said to me, “May your Lord give you your medicine.”  The other girls spent their time taking care of me as well as each other.  They were full of compassion and always they were crying for me and praying for me.  We could not see each other so whenever they would encircle me to pray they would have to feel everything out with their hands by a blind search.  If we separated it was difficult to find each other because it was so dark, but they spent their time praying for me and sharing the Bible with me for my encouragement.  After two months I was released from the jail, but I was forced into military training at the very same place which doubled as a military training center.

Another individual who was a freshman at a technical college shared:

They stoned us because we were always telling the good news of Jesus Christ, and for that reason the other students did not like us.  When the incident occurred there were about six or seven of us praying in the house, and when we went outside we were surprised to discover that a mob had gathered and were waiting for us in a nearby open field.  Most of the other students were Muslim and Orthodox followers, and they knew quite obviously that we were believers and they had no sympathy for us.  When I had discovered that we had been trapped I tried to run away but somebody struck me in the back of my head and I fell down unconscious.  I lay there from 7pm until 9pm bleeding seriously, and then after 1 A.M. I suddenly received strength from the Father.  I went to the school and found the secretary who happened to be a Christian sister and she redirected me to the nurse who stitched me up, although without any anesthetics.  I had just begun my first year of studies but due to the incident I was dismissed for one year.

The situation in Eritrea remains dire and calls for ongoing prayer, advocacy and partnership with efforts such as a one year commission of inquiry created by the Human Rights Council to “investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea.”



During the Fall 2014 faculty training, Kelley Paul from our Academic Success Office was speaking and told this story about how because of her position she finds her kids often “playing college” and “enrolling their stuffed animals into classes”. With a laugh, I commented to the people at my table “That’s sad.”

Librarian Cynthia Peterson, also at our table, commented, “I played librarian when I was a little girl.”

Week11 Bumblebee_transformingAt that moment, I thought to myself, “Will, you are such a disappointment…when you were a kid you wanted to be a Transformer.”

And then as I looked down at myself, I realized something: I’m at least partially there (at least in terms of generally being a cyborg).

Given the tubing, I suppose I am more like Bane from the Batman comics than a cyborg...oh well, segue.

Given the tubing, I suppose I am more like Bane from the Batman comics than a cyborg…oh well, segue.

I am a Type I diabetic, and as I write this I am connected to an insulin pump via a thin plastic tube that is re-inserted into my eight-pack abs stomach fat every three days. The pump, which runs on a single AAA battery, is usually in my pocket, and the insulin transported from it through the tube into my body literally keeps me alive.

There is also a transmitter attached to my stomach which continuously and wirelessly reports estimated blood glucose levels (via a sensor that measures the glucose in my interstitial fluids, which is roughly on a 15-minute delay from the actual blood glucose readings). I also check my blood glucose levels 3 to 4 times daily via fingerstick on a meter which wirelessly reports those levels to my sensor to calibrate those interstitial readings.

And to think, it used to be complicated.

I have been using the pump for only 5 years. Before that, I was taking between 4 and 6 insulin injections each day, which would also lock me into a particular eating schedule for that day; for example, when I was on NPH insulin if I took my breakfast shot at 7am, I would have to eat a very specific amount of carbs for lunch at around 11:30am. If I ate too early, my blood sugar would go high, which repeated over time is linked to an increased likelihood of long-term complications. If I ate too late, my blood sugar would go low, which is a much more acute problem.

I’ve also only had the glucose transmitter for about 4 months. Before that, rather than checking my blood sugar 3 or 4 times per day I was checking 6 to 10 times per day, depending on activity levels. I had started losing some feeling in my fingertips due to the frequency of the pricks, and dropping down how often has already made a positive change in that sensitivity.

I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes only a couple of weeks after my 11th birthday in May 1992. I have COUNTLESS stories about how Type I diabetes has shaped my life since that time. As a reader though, I want you most of all to understand this: DO NOT feel sorry for me.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

7bTherefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

More than possibly any other Earthly influence, this disease has shaped what is now 33-year-old Will Walker. It forced me into total adult self-responsibility at an early age (which carried over into all areas of my life, including academics), it started my true love of physical activity, it made me really good at quick mental math (figuring out dosages, etc.), it fostered my interest in the human body, and most importantly, it was the final impetus for my eternal salvation.

Quite literally, it made me who I am, and if I “hate” Type I diabetes, I hate me.

This line is from the Personal Statement of Faith document that I submitted as part of my job application at ETBU:

“Even my greatest bodily defect, Type-I diabetes, has been geared towards me living a life of eating well and being physically active. I regard teaching Kinesiology as God’s work; while doctors work to heal diseases, Kinesiologists strive to prevent them. I can think of no other way in which to better imitate the miracles of Jesus than to help His people be healthy and physically prosperous.”

(All of that said, I have pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, many more than just three times, and now that I have learned all of these awesome life lessons from it, if at any point He wants to cure me that would be great.)

***Also, I added this video at the last second for Elizabeth Ponder.


The anxious heart: Only a women’s issue?

I have shared before on this blog that my academic pursuits have taken me around the country (well the Midwest mostly until Texas!). In all this moving around, I have had to move away from family and friends, but have been blessed to move closer to other family, and to make new friends in new places.

No matter how wonderful all my new friends are, I still want to keep in touch with old friends, and my friend Emily from Kansas that now lives in Iowa (not any closer to Texas, you’ll notice!) is just such a friend :)

Yes, we’re both women, and stereotypically, women have no trouble talking on the phone. Yet somehow, months would go by and I didn’t call Emily, and she didn’t call me. We’re weren’t in a fight or anything, but we could catch up through Facebook or our husbands, who are also friends, and that would be enough… until it wasn’t.

Now Emily and I have started our own little book club. We are reading Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. We’ve only read the first chapter so far, but I already have some thoughts to share.

I do really like it, but learning that this book was written by a woman, tells the story of a woman’s journey from anxiety to contentment, and is written through examples catered to women makes me wonder: are women the only ones who are anxious, and if so, why?

Photo Credit: R. Motti via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: R. Motti via Compfight cc

Surely it’s not true. Surely men are anxious or worried/concerned with stuff too, right?

Picking up my copy of the book, my husband said, “Oh, is this only for women? I worry about stuff too, maybe I should read it!”

I was immediately comforted.

Men worry too. Whew! It’s not just us girls!

Still though, worry is a “typical” woman thing. Typical as in most, not all, women worry from time to time. Maybe we learned it from our mothers. Maybe men learned from their fathers that worry is a “girl thing” and should not be shared.

Now that worry has been established as an everybody thing, and not just a woman thing, we can move on to my next main take-away from this book (so far).

Should any of us worry? Is worry biblical? 

Definitely not. If we just trust God, what’s there to worry about?

Easier said than done, right?

Calm My Anxious Heart begins with a story of two women, friends, who meet for coffee to discuss life. Linda (the author) isn’t looking forward to this chat because her friend has the terrible habit of finding the negative side of any experience.

I think we all know someone like this.

In contrast, Linda knows another woman, Ella, who is always happy, despite having actual life difficulties. Ella and her husband were missionaries with the pygmies in Africa for 52 years.

Hotter than the hottest day in Texas. No electricity. No air conditioning. No sewage or running water.

These are things to complain about, yet Ella never did.  She had a prescription for contentment:

  • Never allow yourself to complain about anything – not even the weather.
  • Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
  • Never compare your lot with another’s.
  • Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
  • Never dwell on tomorrow – remember that tomorrow is God’s, not ours.

I like to think of myself as a pretty happy, pleasant person, and I don’t like to complain that much. But wow. This list puts me to shame!

Photo Credit: melissaclark via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: melissaclark via Compfight cc

If we all lived this way, what a change it would make! I can’t help but think about the election, and how much news is dedicated to complaining, threatening, worrying, etc. about stuff that we really can’t do a lot to change.

Never complain about ANYTHING? Not even if the wrong person gets elected (according to you), or you don’t like the new plan,  or the speech wasn’t that good, or the outfit was terrible? Not anything?

As I read more of this book, I am going to make a more conscious effort to live for contentment. It’s going to be difficult, I know, but definitely worth it! More updates to come :)


“So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance…”

In the United States, we are often taught that we can “achieve prosperity through hard work”; this is the essence of the American Dream.

The problem is, that isn’t exactly true.

There are a variety of factors that influence our success beyond just hard work. Among other things, genetics, social status, and (as much as we don’t like to hear it) plain ol’ dumb luck play huge roles in our successes and failures. Yes, hard work is almost always a necessary ingredient for the highest levels of achievement across all fields, but hard work does not guarantee success. (For more elaboration on this point, I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.)

Week10 EthicsThere is a related dilemma I face as a professor, which is fresh in my mind as we approach Spring 2015 advising: what is my ethical responsibility in telling students whether or not their goals are achievable? Allow me to elaborate.

KINE 1301 Introduction to Kinesiology is a “Leadership Enhanced Course”. As part of that initiative, I ask my students to write about their long-term career goals. Inevitably, there are always students that write that their “Plan A” is to play professional basketball or football. Knowing that this response is coming, I usually have this ready: the most-recent version of a regular NCAA study that shows the miniscule chance of a person making a major professional sports league. I then further explain that the vast majority of THOSE successes are not from Division III. There were only nine D3 football players on NFL opening day rosters and there are only eight MLB players with any D3 baseball experience.  Furthermore, D3 representation in the NBA has been virtually non-existent for years.

“So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance…”

Usually these statistics help the student gain perspective. However, there are still those students that see the long odds and assume it is a challenge to be overcome. In other words, their reaction is pretty much like this…

In essence, I sometimes inadvertently encourage that small group to try even harder since their odds are so small, often to the detriment of other aspects of their college experience.

Now, the example I gave just deals with students that think they are going to be professional athletes. However, most of the circumstances I encounter in which students have unrealistic goals happen in a more scholastic environment. For example, the average GPA of students accepted to Physical Therapy programs is over 3.5 and climbing, so beyond sharing that information, how do I best-prepare a senior with a sub-3.0 GPA for the very likely circumstance that he or she will got get accepted into a program? What about a student that wants to teach (requiring a 2.75 GPA, at minimum) but that bombed out his or her freshman year before legitimately turning things around? Yes, that person may actually be a GREAT teacher, but the difficulty of digging out of a GPA hole must be realistically discussed, regardless of how hard the person works now.

Sometimes you just know.

The worst feeling I ever have as a professor occurs when I have the realization that a student isn’t going to “make it”. I am not referring to those times that a student is taking a class and does poorly enough to clinch an “F”, though that is discouraging. I am not even referring to those instances when a student leaves college entirely after multiple class failures, although that is sad.

No, the worst feeling I get happens when after first meeting with a student or after receiving the first assignment I immediately realize the student will be never successful at the college level; that is tragic. “But all students can be successful if they just work harder!” No, that is false. “Dr. Walker, that is overly negative and you are being defeatist!” Maybe, or maybe I am realistic.

To clarify, it VERY rarely happens that I have a student that cannot achieve; usually the problem is that the student does not achieve, despite being capable. ETBU has admissions standards that generally eliminate students that are not adequately prepared. Furthermore, we have a university-wide commitment to academic support that is much better than other university settings that I have encountered. Even including those students that do “fail out”, 99.9% of ETBU students have the prerequisite abilities and available support to be successful. Is it easier for some? Yes, but I honestly think that nearly all of our students can achieve and graduate. Most only need a redirection of priorities.

It is the 0.1% that bothers me. I am now in my 8th year back at ETBU as a full-time professor, and of the hundreds of students I have encountered in my courses I can think of less than a handful that fit this profile: it would not have mattered what they did, what I did, or what the Academic Success Office did. They were not going to be successful in college.

There’s the dilemma. Ethically, which is worse? To honestly think that a student cannot reach a goal and keep it to myself?  Or to tell a student that you don’t think a goal is achievable but it is?!

There is a psychological term known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It says that “unskilled individuals tend to suffer from illusionary superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate”; in short, it is believing in one’s self too much. This term helps explain how both in my role as a professor and in my former life as a college coach I have had athletes in my office that were Division III reserves explain to me that their talents were being misused and that they were professional-level  players. However, don’t you think that a large percentage of CEOs, presidents, generals, and other high-level achievers (such as athletes, i.e. Kobe Bryant) would be Dunning-Kruger effect “victims”? Isn’t success at that level predicated on the fact that those people have an irrationally high level of self-confidence? What percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs have “illusionary superiority”? When then, should anyone stifle that confidence?

Also, Muggsy Bogues was in Space Jam!

Also, Muggsy Bogues was in Space Jam!

I mean, how many people do you think told 5’3” Muggsy Bogues that he’d never make the NBA? (Check out this story.) How many people told Barack Obama that there’d never be a black president or told Bill Gates that people would never have a need for a personal computer? I wonder how Steve Jobs reacted when some people thought the iPad wouldn’t be successful because of the name.

As professors, we must intentionally seek out wisdom and discernment in all situations. In particular, I must help students discover and accept God’s path for them, even if that means a particular occupation (or college in general) is not a part of that plan.