This is my seventh year of reflecting, through my blog, on my “happiest happenings” for a particular year. (For earlier annual reflections, see 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010.) My happiest happenings in 2017 are (not in any order):
1. Finishing my PhD in Education
I began my studies toward the PhD in education in 2010. I could have finished in 2013, but the Lord did not allow it; instead, I had to learn two important lessons.
First lesson: Please only God. I tend to be a people pleaser, but the Lord taught me not to please people but to please only Him: “Our purpose is to please God, not people” (1 Thessalonians 2:4b, NLT). I learned that when I please God, I do not need to concern myself with how other people might view me or my work. I also learned that pleasing God fulfills my potential and makes me happy.
Second lesson: Never compare myself with others. I remember Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata from long ago: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself .”
As soon as I have learned these lessons, I was able to defend my dissertation successfully and pass with flying colors.
I’m now thinking of whether to transform my dissertation into a book. The big question for me, based on my understanding of William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book, is whether I have sufficient material (research results) to give leaders the encouragement and the tools to improve themselves or their situation. I know that the Lord will guide me in this, too.
2. Salvation from Permanent Injuries
When, during a sudden downpour, my former car skidded, rammed through a tall lamp post, and crossed the traffic island into the other lane, I was profoundly grateful to the Lord that: (1) the only injuries I sustained were a stiff neck due to whiplash; and (2) there was no incoming traffic. The car was declared by the insurance company as a total wreck, and so I was able to purchase a newer and better vehicle, cash!
The Lord is good. Not only were I and others saved, but I also learned so many things (e.g., about the importance of the daily unhurried reading of God’s word and prayer in cultivating one’s relationship with God), and even got a vehicle that I really like!
3. Organizing a Medium-Sized Forum on Educating Generation Z
As head of the Society of University Fellows, which is celebrating its Pearl Anniversary this academic year, I organized what I hope would become an annual Fellows’ Forum on Higher Education, the inaugural theme of which was Educating Generation Z.
Gen Zers were born around 1995, at about the same time as the birth of the World Wide Web. While doing research for the situationer that I had to give, I realized that several paradoxes exist concerning Gen Z, one of which is what I call the Friendship Paradox: Though Gen Zers might have many friends on social media, they might have very few real friends. This can have several causes as well as effects, including what Jean Twenge suggests in her 2017 book on iGen that greater suicide risk is associated with longer average daily Internet use. Since the Forum, I have talked to various groups of people, trying to convince them of the need to study further how Internet use might be adversely impacting today’s children and youth, and what we can do about it.
4. Teaching about God’s Love and Our Fruit Bearing
I’m very grateful for having been asked to give the message for 2018 to my local church. The message was about John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. And the Father will give you whatever you ask in my Name.” For the first time, I articulated, based on experience and reflection, a framework for fruit bearing.
Bearing fruit can be viewed as a process that begins with an understanding of God’s love for us as unique individuals. This leads us to respond to God’s love in kind, by doing what God wants us to do, not out of duty, but out of love. As we obey the Holy Spirit in the big things as well as in the small ones, we bear fruit, i.e., our character becomes more and more like that of Christ, and people are drawn to Christ’s love through the testimony of our actions as well as words. And “the Father will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name.”
As I say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018, I thank God, first of all, who chose me before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and whose love for me is so great that I can never understand fully it (Ephesians 3:19a, NLT).
And I also thank my family, friends, and those whom I minister to, for their love.
To everyone I wish a new year “filled with the love and power that comes from God”! (Ephesians 3:19b, NLT)