Musings From A PhD Student – We Don’t Know It All

I remember an image of an illustration sent to me by a mentor that showed the impact of starting a PhD program on the brain of the PhD student. The picture showed the brains of people at various academic levels. The picture for the PhD brain humorously showed the brain extend beyond the point of elasticity. A little red dot appropriately named “thinking”  located well outside a dotted circle around the extended brain of the PhD student,  signified that a PhD student must always think outside the boundaries of conventional thinking. The elasticity of the PhD brain  on the other hand, referenced how flexibility with which the PhD student must engage in critical thinking .

As I examined this image, I immediately could relate as I was then, beginning to feel the stress of my brain extend figuratively as I studied books, write ups and journals.  I can definitely attest that in my PhD journey, my thinking and my general approach to life has changed, however as George Huber said in his book ” The Necessary Nature Of Future Firms” , “knowledge begets knowledge.” The more knowledge one has and no matter how extensive you think you know,  the more your knowledge becomes fodder for more knowledge according to Huber. That is why the great Albert Einstein said, “the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

This was my gut check reality punch if I can call it that. Sometimes I felt I was swimming in a pool with a never-ending finish line of opinions, ideals and ideas.  I thought I knew stuff due to this so-called “brain extension” but I was so wrong to make that assertion. Throughout this noise of knowledge assimilation and flexibility of thinking, it hit me that all knowledge begins and ends in Christ. That realization helped me to wade through this pool, examining content under the guidance and help of Christ, the master of all knowledge.

In the book of Proverbs in the old testament of the Bible, the author admonishes us to trust or put the weight of our quest for knowledge on the Lord, lean on God and not on our own understanding. The reality as mentioned earlier is that we don’t know it all, so lets humble ourselves before the God of all knowledge, surrender what we already know to Him and allow Him to make straight our paths as we continue to seek knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

 

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Musings From A PhD Student — Don’t Give Up

In 2014, I began a journey that has literally changed my life. I was out taking a walk when I had a huge impression in my mind to get my act together and pursue a PhD program. For the record, I had always dreamed of doing a PhD but never really put any action to this wish, however after that walk  it was so clear in my mind that I needed to stop procrastinating and get my application in. After a looooooooong conversation with my wife as well as my Pastor,  I set out for residency. I was now a PhD student and every time I mentioned that I was studying for a PhD in conversations with friends, I would either get blank stares or statements of pity and concern. I remember a friend saying to me “why are you embarking on suffering?” I laughed it up, however, I was under no illusions that the program was a piece of cake.  Boy was I right, a year into the program, I gave up, the stress and my inadequacies as a student became too heavy for me to bear.

I quit and took a year off, it would take the prayers and encouragement from friends and mentors to eventually get me back. I began my second attempt at my studies by acknowledging my weaknesses, I reached to my adviser Dr Winston who literally taught me how to read and analyze again, though I was studying a PhD, I felt like I was in kindergarten, vulnerable and most times afraid. However as I continued and sort more prayers from friends, I began to take each semester as it came. God began to strengthen my resolve, one semester, turned into two and then three, now to the glory of God I am in my third year. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was tough and I still have some ways to go but things are different now.

I have not blogged in a while but i felt impressed in my heart to begin again with this post of encouragement to someone out there going through  tough times. My heart goes out  especially to those going through catastrophic events like in Houston right now. Please be of good courage and don’t give up. God will strengthen your heart. He will give you the inner fortitude to overcome the fear, the disappointments and the loss. God will give you strength. My prayer also is that God sends your way good minded people to uplift you in your time of crisis as He did me. I may not be near you now but as you read this I pray God surrounds you with his love and strength.

Peace

Psalm 31:24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Building Bridges- Understanding and Resolving Conflicts

Experiencing inter-personal and inter-group conflicts in everyday life is a common occurrence. Our differences, uniqueness, experiences, perceptions, goals and point of view sometimes create fodder for conflicts. As long as you have two people together, there is an opportunity for unity but also equally, an opportunity for conflict.

The shootings over the past week or so in Dallas, Louisiana and Minnesota have left many wondering, others took to social media to express their disdain, while others have taken up their fight quietly by praying for their respective communities etc However, these shootings showed us the importance of clearly understanding the causes of inter group conflicts as well as proactively taking steps to resolve them.

Ivancevich, Konopaske and Matteson (2014) wrote a book on organizational behavior where they stated that inter-group conflicts are a result of work inter relatedness, goal differences and perception differences. I believe that these reasons are applicable regardless of the settings or context.  Our mere connection with one another can create conflict, when we fail in our responsibilities towards our fellow human beings, conflict can arise; when we perceive that our goals are mutually exclusive from the goals of others, then conflicts can arise and when we are stereotypical and perceive the differences of others as a threat regardless of race or backgrounds, then conflicts can arise.

So how do we resolve intergroup conflicts or how can we in light of this information, address this issue? First of all, I believe in the power of prayer, James 5:16 says that prayer is powerful and dynamic, prayer opens the doors for healing to take place. Jesus encouraged us to pray in Luke 1:18 regardless of the situation. Therefore, the role of prayer in resolving conflicts can’t be over emphasized.

Secondly, in Matthew 18:15-16 Jesus gives a template for conflict resolution, He encouraged confrontation with the offender, but not like you think, the confrontation is more with the purpose of reconciliation and not retaliation. Having a forum for discussion, opens doors of dialogue to not only  discuss the issue but hear the other side. The goal of this discussion is to think win-win, as we engage in dialogue, we must always ask how can my views be heard and how best can I hear the views of others.

Thirdly, sometimes, resolving conflicts requires a fresh pair of eyes in the situation, that is why Jesus recommended to bring a third-party into the mix. We have to be open to criticism and not short-sighted to ignore the voices of others. Although difficult, resolving conflicts requires that you put yourself in the other persons shoes and check your perceptions about the other group or person at the door.

In conclusion, to change relationship dynamics, we have to change ourselves, this is daunting task as we are weak in the flesh, however this is where God comes in. In our weaknesses, His strength is made perfect, God will fight for you even when you feel displaced, even when you feel like you are getting the short end of the stick.  Pray for Gods wisdom, His patience and most of all that His love rules in your heart after all there is no conflict resolution without love. So this is just a short list from a long list of things to do, would love to hear your response.

Blessings to your day.

Honing Your Craft

I recently watched an interview of a famous rapper who was asked to “spit some lines” (rap) on the fly. After her performance she was asked how she was able to rap so eloquently on short notice. Her answer was ” well I spend time honing my craft.” It wasn’t the first time I had heard those words, in fact many world-famous athlete use it all the time to mean that they spend time  cultivating, grooming, perfecting, sharpening, improving, practicing and developing their talents, gifts and their call. How profound!

2 peter 1:10 says ” Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.”

A close look at Biblical and secular examples prove the above Scripture correct. To avoid embarrassment and stumbling, time and effort is needed to develop and confirm your craft. A great way to “confirm” your call is to hone it.

In case you have not put “two and two” together, your craft is the intersection of your passions, pains, gifting’s and life work. Your craft is that “thing” that God has given you to use to bless others.

Honing your craft requires discipline, focus, self patience and most of all dependence on God.  It also means creating an environment that is conducive for the development of your gifts, so that you can be the best God called you to be. Practically, it means reading books in your area of specialty , watching videos for self-improvement in that area, surrounding yourself with values and people who push you to make progress. Finally, it also requires practice.

The interesting thing is that we all have a craft to hone, if you have not discovered it, its time to do so and if you have, its time to hone it. So let’s get busy today.

Life Question:
What is your craft and how are you honing it today?

 

 

 

 

Digging Deeper

The NBA finals just concluded with various fans chiming on whether or not Cleveland deserved to win it all. Others speak of a conspiracy to rig the games, while others bask in the joy of a championship finally getting to Cleveland. These reactions are real and tell a much greater story in my  opinion of not just whether or not certain individuals deserve to win but actually what it takes to get to the pinnacle of success and finally win.

Sometimes, it takes a gut check, a search deeper into the crevices of our souls to see what we are actually made up of. Winning requires focus, thought and composure. It requires a strong assurance within that you are able to make it in Life. Grit and toughness within is essential, however these characteristics must be anchor on God who remains the unstoppable force that propels us to succeed.

1 John 5:4 says “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” First of all our lineage as believers gives us the edge, we have a Greater one on the inside that is able to give us the victory. All that is required now is for us to bite down, dig deeper, lock in our faith and start taking steps.

That’s what I am doing now by finally writing this blog after several months of absence, that what will keep me trusting in God’s ability even I when I feel like giving up, that is what will keep me keeping on even when others say its impossible. I pray the same for you today. You have overcome, act like it. God bless your day.

God’s delay not always His denial

Have you ever experienced the frustration of waiting in line in a driver license facility especially after what seems like an eternity? or the disappointment as a result of some “unforeseen” delays in the delivery of a very important package?

You are not alone, this happens to all of us and when this happens, we naturally get despondent and even in some cases angry at the situation. However, it is one thing to experience delays, it is another story to feel completely ignored or unattended to especially by those we expect to help us. In fact, things can get even more daunting when it seems like God is deliberately ignoring our requests or deliberately delaying the answers to our prayers.

Martha and Mary, two sisters from a town called Bethany experienced this first hand when they sent word to Jesus about their sick brother Lazarus. This account is found in John 11:1-44. The story goes like this, Lazarus a very good friend of Jesus falls sick, his sisters (Martha and Mary) send word to Jesus who is on a retreat in the River Jordan about 20 miles away about the situation. When Jesus gets the message a day later, He is not ruffled, He tells His disciples in essence that the sickness was not going to lead to death and remained in his getaway sport for two more days (John 11:6-7).

“Wait!!” “Hold up a second,” what did Jesus do again?” “You mean to tell me that He just ignored the cry or plea from these women about their sick brother?” ” Something just doesn’t add,” you might think. Meanwhile, the messenger goes back to Bethany without any definite answer.

Any reasonable person would think that the least Jesus could have done was speak a word of healing like He did to the Roman  centurion whose sick servant received his health by Jesus’ spoken word. He could have sent a note explaining the delay and even apologized for wasting time.  However, Jesus does none of these.

Jesus carries on with His activities and when He finally arrives at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. This definitely was a tough pill for these women to swallow as they not only had to bury their brother but also had to deal with a Rabbi and close friend Jesus whose love for them was now being questioned.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21) That sounds like a very realistic statement to make. After all, this was the Messiah we are talking about, His presence alone would have solved the problem. Jesus was late and not just fashionably late, His delay it would seem, resulted in the death of a man.

How many times have we thought to ourselves just like Martha expressed.  How many times have we questioned God’s delay, how many times have we asked if our situations would have changed if God just showed up on time (at least in our own minds)?

When there are delays in our lives, we need to understand that God has a plan. His plan is to bring glory to Himself. This might not give immediate gratification to us but in the long run it will.  According to Jesus, Lazarus’ death was to bring glory to God ultimately; God’s delay is not denial. God wants to increase the size of your testimony. Just continue to give Him thanks like Jesus did as you wait on Him and at the end like Lazarus, every delayed and dead dream will come alive.

My prayer for you today is for God to give you the strength to wait on  and believe in His timing. I pray that God will show you that in the end, all will end well and that it’s not too late. God bless.

 

 

Waiting On God’s Timing

The longest period it took me to compose and post a 500 word blog was over 2 years. In fact, I began composing the blog sometime in July 2013 and finally posted it on February 19th 2015. You might ask why it took so long to do this, especially when avid bloggers take less time to crank out write ups.

There are many reasons why it took me this long to get back in the “blogging game”, some reasons are positive and some reasons to be honest with you are negative. There are the usual suspects like procrastination, laziness, discouragement, over analysis, low self-esteem,  incompetence and fault-finding to mention a few. However, there is a key reason, a positive one that we often ignore especially when we dwell on the negative reasons. That key reason or part is timing, God’s timing.

In the bible there is a story about a man named Noah. God instructed Noah to build an Ark and gave him detailed specifications on how to build it. The ark took quite sometime to complete, many biblical scholars posit that it must have taken him between 50 to 120 years to build the ark.  Now that is a long time if you ask me.

I wonder what people around Noah must have thought as he and his family went out to get materials day in and day out to build the ark. I am sure they made fun of Noah and his family as they embarked on this long project. I can also assume that Noah must have experienced moments of discouragement as year after year he waiting for rain. However, Noah and his family kept at it and at the right moment the rain began to fall, creating a flood. The ark served it’s purpose at the right time and it saved Noah entire family.

Sometimes we get worked up about how long a project, a relationship, a business or even a blog is taking us to develop. We get discouraged and down trodden over our inability to start and finish things in good time especially in our own time (when we want it). However, be encouraged friends, you are in good company as some great works just like Noah’s ark often took a long time to complete.

Do you know that that the Mona Lisa, the famous painting by the Maestro Leonardo Da Vinci took close to 4 years for him to complete?  The Christ the Redeemer statue, the great Brazilian landmark took almost 9 years to complete.  The  Taj Mahal in India took over 20 years to complete and the list goes on and on.

Habakkuk 2:3 says  “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” (TLB)

There is an appointed time for everything to manifest itself. God’s time is the best and our ability to keep moving on, never giving up and most of all exercising patience while we wait, will get us to the finish line.

While it is true that not every great work of art or building or process takes a long time to complete just like the Empire State Building only took a little over a year to complete or God created the world in 7 days, one thing is certain, we must constantly patiently wait for God’s timing for the manifestation.

My prayer for you today is that in all your endeavors God will show to you the proper time to act, give you the patience to wait on His perfect timing and urge you to keep keeping on even when you feel like quitting.