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The Same Journey

n558650289_408660_4097.jpgWhen the director of ER wants you to hone in on a character’s facial expression, s/he uses this camera technique that always makes me a little sea-sick. The room spins and shakes, but the actor stands statue-still. I had a film person name the technique for me years ago, and I promptly forgot it. But I’ve had a lot of those room-spinning moments as of late (but in real life), and I get the same intensely queasy feeling.

This has been a very, very sentimental year. And I didn’t even know it would be sentimental until months later. But my heart is warmed that God anticipated my need for sweet memories, for room-shakingly intense snapshots of life.

I had the opportunity to sit in an American Public Address class again under my dear teacher, DeWitt Jones. Granted, I was sitting in as his supervisor for a teaching evaluation, but it didn’t feel like that in the least. It felt like I was 21 again, hearing about FDR with the same energy and enthusiasm that wooed me into the discipline as an undergraduate. Taking that class with him cemented my decision to pursue rhetorical studies.

Looking back now, I realize why I fell in love with Bob Jones University. The faculty. All the students at BJU speak with great honor of their teachers. A few years ago — the first year, in fact, I wore my doctoral regalia — I marched into the Commencement exercises with another favorite teacher from my undergrad years, Ed Panosian — a giant of a man who taught me History of Civ and Ancient Philosophy. He was a real cut-up, too, during that exceptionally formal proceeding. His wife, Betty, was my office mate for a brief time and is another teacher I admire. But it’s her sense of humor that still makes me laugh out loud. “Oh, some of those WCTU speeches would drive you to drink!”

I could never name all the teachers that I treasure, and I could never list how I use their lessons daily. Karen Pine taught me outlining. Ray St. John taught me essay writing. Elizabeth Edwards, interpretation. David Burke, persuasion. Ron Horton, precision. DeWitt Jones, argument. Joyce Parks, audience analysis. Lonnie Polson, problem solving. And I also had the rare blessing of calling those teachers my colleagues and my friends. Even if we’re talking about black spot on our roses or Russian gypsies over cold cuts or sharing verses through tears, I cherish those conversations and I pray we have many more in the future.

This past Spring I also had the opportunity to teach my favorite section yet in a series we started years ago under the course title, Seminar in Public Address. We started with Jonathan Edwards, then moved to George Whitefield, Charles Finney, and Dwight Moody. The final class, little did I know at the time, was this past spring, and we discussed “The Fourth Great Awakening.” Covering the current rhetoric of Evangelicals, Pentecostals, our own Fundamentalists, and even emerging voices, it was our chance to imagine what the next Great Awakening might look like. The topic was exhiliarating to me, but I am more thankful for those dear students. They were such a constant encouragment. I don’t know if the students know how much a blessing they are. I know we don’t tell them enough.

One of the students from that class was walking with my husband and me to Commencement this last Spring, and the school’s photographers snapped a picture. There we are up there (and I got the wrong color hood!). When she first showed me the picture, I made some goofy comment about it being an interesting “bookend” with the other picture from 17 years ago. I didn’t even know then that we were seeing our last Commencement or how prophetic that careless comment would be.

I said this first on a more public blog to further introduce myself there. And also to question the so-called denomination-splintering debates we Protestants “enjoy.” As much as our recent life change has been characterized as motivated by a drastic change in our theology, that’s not what started it. It got started in the same lessons I learned in those wrapped-in-love lectures, and it continued in order to encourage the same students I left behind. So it’s not a break or a change really at all. It’s the same journey.

We’re still very, very close to our exit from Bob Jones University. The room is still spinning in many ways. But my professional and personal life is knitted to those people, and I wanted to say how much publicly. God’s people are there. I’ll always be thankful for them. And I’m praying for them daily, even during this exceptionally busy week for them.

5 thoughts on “The Same Journey

  1. You hit the nail on the head, again! I am forever indebted to some of the faculty at BJU. I was just reflecting the other day that I graduated high school with a 2.5-2.7 (don’t recall entirely.) My musical education had been nine months worth of piano lessons, and trumpet in the Jr. High Band. Needless to say, on paper, I wasn’t the best candidate for college music studies. My teachers loving, carefully, taught me.

    My only regret now is that I didn’t take some of those classes you were talking about, or that I didn’t double major in RPA!

  2. I had the honor of touring the campus a few weeks ago, while in town for a relative’s wedding. My husband is one of the students who spent one long semester there. He has often commented that his single semester at BJU surpassed the rest of his college career in academic difficulty. Unfortunately for the college, scapegoating in the name of making an example drove him away. That was God’s providence to allow us to meet.

    I’m so sorry to hear you are no longer at BJU. They need more professors like you.

  3. I was very surprised when I heard that you and your husband had left Bob Jones University. I attended BJU from 2001-2004 and never had the opportunity to work with your husband or take any RPA classes. However, I had great respect for your family. Reading your comments about all of the professors brought back many memories of my own time there. I am so thankful for all of the teachers that invested so much time in my life.

    I understand some of what you are going through in your leaving Bob Jones and wanted you to know that I am praying for your family as you make the transition! God is going to use you mightily in the future.

  4. Four years and 100 corn dogs later.

    While working at BJU, I used to tell folk that God also works on the outside of these gates. I would use this saying when around folk who thought the world revolved around BJU only and spoke such.

    I think folk who reside inside the gates for too long really lose touch with what real life is all about.

    I can only say that for my family, we needed to get out because I was never going to give my leadership role over my family to the Jones’s.

    I told Tony Miller that he never would replace me in that role and that he needed to relay that to Jim Berg. I used every opportunity to send that message right up until the last days.

  5. The Squire says it so clearly! He was not going to let the Jones ‘usurp’ his leadership in his own family. Fundies don’t realize how much they ‘abdicate’ their own spiritual authority, when they ‘cave’ and ‘give in to ‘typical fundy intimidation’. When I threw those awful child rearing books out in the garbage that I refused to follow, I was telling myself that my little ones were going to be raised by me and my husband, not by some old fashioned ‘idiot’ telling me not to sing to my children. When fundies interfere in marriages and parenting, they interfere in families, and ‘screw people up’ in their minds and in their emotions. No wonder these people don’t know how to think! That is, not until they escape. They’re not taught! Fundamentalism is like a communism of the mind. People feel guilty when they’re around anyone who might be spying on them. And people feel guilty for thinking negative thoughts about the people who mke them feel guilty. It’s really not much different from the JW cult. They feel guilty and afraid all the time.And knocking on doors gives them little relief.

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