10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me Before Starting Graduate School

It. Is. Finished.

As of May 7th 2017,  I have officially obtained my Masters in Divinity degree from Andrews University – my alma mater. The past few years have been some of the most humbling, exciting, and paradigm-shifting years filled with lots of learning, love, and life.

They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. Here are 10 things I wish someone would have shared with me when I started 3 years ago:

  1. Invest in your community
    Education without a nurturing, supportive, community can render learning a drudgery. I’m thankful for my friends and colleagues with whom I could process insights as well as enjoy much needed down-time.

  2. Reflect on your learning
    Taking notes in class is one thing, but taking notes of your notes is another. I may have forgotten most of the notes I took, but I’m still able to recollect a considerable amount of content I’d processed through reflection. I wish I’d spent more time to reflect via journaling, recording, and blogging earlier on in my grad school experience.

  3. Look for mentors
    I eventually felt the need to seek out mentors beyond those who were assigned to me in the form of teachers and required texts. Mentorship, I later realized, is a veritable hack and shortcut to excellence, and the more mentors I surrounded myself with, the more I was able to lead, learn, and love better. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you truly become the company you keep. Seek out meaningful relationships which are mutually valuable.
  4. Find ways to implement learning
    This is a step above reflection. Learning is further concretized when one finds creative ways to actualize it. In other words, the best learning has happened when I intentionally contextualized and personalized ideas for personal or public benefit in the form of sermons, ministry models, write-ups, or even just plain status updates.
  5. Develop a filing system
    Oh how I wish someone would have taken me aside my first year and shared the importance of this! If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have paid someone to teach me the ins and outs of organizing any piece of information, digital or analog.
  6. Take care of yourself
    Exercise, diet, you-time, family time. All inestimable in importance. When the person is prioritized, the life is positioned for maximum benefit and impact. Taking a day off every semester for a personal retreat, for instance, has been a game-changer for me in so many ways.
  7. Choose your experience
    This deserves an entire post of its own. In other words, you will do well to exercise the God-given gift of your will to choose how you wish to respond to the vicissitudes of life. If you’re not intentional, your experience will be chosen for you by various people, projects, and pressures.
    An apathetic, laissez-faire approach to dealing with conflicts is directly proportional to an atrophied, disproportionate, life experience. Choose wisely, and choose daily for success.
  8. Schedule your values
    This is a practical way of being proactive about your experience. Scheduling values – in contrast to tasks – involves a two-fold process of identifying your values and then etching it on your daily and monthly calendar.
    For instance, if one of your values is to to take care of your health, then consider calendaring a regular workout regiment in your monthly planner. Your tasks should be an outflow of your values. Not the reverse.
  9. Construct your “why?”
    A recommended personal exercise during this time is to continually engage in the process of crafting your “why” – your one-sentence mission statement which articulates your passion and contribution to the world. The sooner you are able to do this, the better you’ll be able to distinguish between what drains you and what strengthens you.
  10. Have fun!
    Like, seriously. Take time to enjoy your friendships, create new ones, make new memories, and laugh! As one of my good friends from grad school used to say, make sure to get some “chill vibes” regardless of what you do or don’t do.

For my colleagues and friends who graduated: What else would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!

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The Only Reason Why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian

SDA 1 reason

“Potlucks”

“Family-feel”

“Haystacks”

“My parents”

“My teacher”

“Sabbath”

“Sam’s chicken”

And the list goes on when one’s inquired about why they are a Seventh-Day Adventist.

In light of the recent notoriety the denomination has been getting through media and news networks, I had to revisit this question myself:

“Why are YOU a Seventh-Day Adventist, Kevin?”

I am not going to lie. This was a tough one. When I reflected on my 25 short years as an Adventist, however, I was able to boil it down to a single reason onto a single sentence.

The only reason I am a Seventh-Day Adventist is because I believe that we have the clearest, richest, and fullest picture of the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

That’s it. The following is the “un-packaging” of this  long over-due, comprehensive explanation I owe to you, my reader.

Hopefully by the end, you’ll not only get a better look into why I believe what I believe, but also understand why I do and say the stuff I do and say.

Here we go:

How we understand the Scriptures ( the Bible ) presents Jesus as a serious BOSS. He is the Writer, Editor, Compiler, Creator, Presenter, and Protector of this meta-narrative that my friend calls the “God-Story.” The Old Testament points forward to the coming of Jesus and the New Testament looks back at the Jesus who’s already come.

How we understand the Trinity exalts Jesus as One with the Father and the Spirit – distinct yet equal in authority. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit live out their lives in each other, through each other, and this other-centered love has been poured out full strength to the human race through the person of Jesus Christ.

How we understand creation presents Jesus as One through whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together. I believe that He is the soundtrack of all nature, and the sustainer of all life.

How we understand the seventh-day Sabbath reminds me of what was created through Jesus and what was redeemed by Jesus. This is a time where I can fully rest from my need for validation and rest in the love of God.

How we understand the nature of humanity let me know that I am known, valued, understood, appreciated, and enjoyed because I’ve been created by Jesus. Because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, my life finds its purpose, joy, and function in and through Him.

How we understand the “God-Story” or the Great Controversy, presents Jesus as the conquering hero who has successfully completed the ultimate rescue mission in earth’s history. I find my place in this story as a beloved, victorious son of God who’ll one day see the face of his Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

How we understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus elevates Christ as the theme and song of all Biblical history. We believe that His account isn’t localized within just the first four books of the New Testament, but from Genesis to Revelation, every chapter and every verse, echoes His love ultimately manifested through His sacrifice on the cross.

How we understand salvation magnifies Jesus as the Author, Provider, and Finisher of our salvation. We are justified by His blood, sanctified through His Spirit, and will one day be glorified through his grace.

How we understand our spiritual growth transforms every waking moment of our existence as a spiritual experience through the spirit of Jesus. The dichotomous relationship between the “sacred” and the “secular” is decimated through Him. The more I’m aware of His presence in my life, the more I grow into his likeness so I can treat others as He did – with compassion, justice, and mercy.

How we understand the church honors Jesus as the foundational ‘adhesive’ who unites all His children together. This is a community where everyone is entrusted with embodying and telling someone the God-Story. It is a refuge in the midst of this stormy world where we pray together, play together, and process together all the while praising Him who has our back.

How we understand the mission of God’s remnant finds its reason and method in Jesus. We are to introduce others to His love, experience joy in Him, and live out our lives in him as we approach the end of this sojourn on earth.

How we understand Baptism as a symbol of our new birth, finds its impetus and rubric in the life and death of Jesus. As I rise up from the ‘watery grave’, it’s an outward expression of an inward change that has taken place because of Him.

How we understand the Lord’s Supper as an emblem of Jesus’ experience invites all His friends to authentic service, brotherly love, and faithful community in Him.

How we understand the gift of prophecy highlights Jesus as its theme of contemplation and admiration. The ministry of this prophetic gift through Ellen White has brought me closer to Jesus than anyone has ever done.

How we understand the law of God honors Jesus as the mode and purpose for relational faithfulness between God and us. Because of what He did for me on the cross, I no longer work towards victory but from it.

How we understand stewardship acknowledges Jesus as the Provider of my time, talents, and resources. I am entrusted with them to better the environments I find myself in, whether it be within the community of God or outside of it.

How we understand marriage as a heavenly institution finds its reason for existence in Jesus. His selfless love poured out to his bride – the church – gives me a model from which I can learn to love my spouse.

How we understand Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary elevates Jesus as not only my Savior and Friend, but also as my Judge, Advocate, and High Priest who prays for me even right now!

How we understand the end of life honors Jesus as the Conqueror of death! Death is not the end, but a sleep! The real and living hope of reuniting with loved ones energizes my life’s pursuits.

How we understand the millennium, the new earth, and the second coming lauds Jesus as the King of a new kind of existence – one where there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more death, and no more sorrow. A place filled with inexpressible joy and unfathomable happiness and peace. A place where I can finally see my ever faithful Friend face to face.

There it is. The package and its contents.

I don’t have 28 reasons as to why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I have One. And He’s all I need.

What about you? If you are a Seventh-Day Adventist, why are you one? if you are not, ask me ANYTHING if you want to know more! I’ll do my best to answer them. Leave a question or a comment below!