Friday, May 27, 2011

Graduate Update

                    Dear Readership,

 It is your blogger, Deidre Richardson here. I am writing to provide you all with a graduate update.

The last post I sent (prior to the Rob Bell response) was on May 20, 2011, the day of my graduation from the Master of Divinity program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Since graduation one week ago today, I can say that I have been relaxing and enjoying the time away. Something that I haven’t done in my five years in the MDiv program is what I now find myself doing a lot of---playing video games. What very few people know about me is that I was a huge video gamer back in the day. I own a Sega Genesis that is soon-to-be 18 years old this December 2011. Lately, I have been playing NBA Jam, one of my favorite games on the Sega, for a couple of hours each day. I managed to play video games while reading the Rob Bell book, and got it all done in record time. Not bad for a new graduate!!!

Graduation itself was marvelous. My mom’s parents did a great job of standing in my mother’s stead. I have informed you all (and do every year) that my mother died 2 years ago this Spring from brain cancer. She battled breast and lung cancers prior to brain cancer and died after having fought cancer for three years. She was my dearest and best friend, someone I missed more than words could ever say on last Friday. I carried my mother’s Duke University undergraduate Bible with me into Binkley Chapel on that day, proud that I could have a little piece of my mother with me. As Dr. John Boozer, head of the music department at the seminary, began to bellow out “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” and all the seminary congregation joined, I began to cry while singing the words. I thought to myself, “Man, how my mother would’ve rejoiced to see this day.” I know that, though invisible to me, she was there. She saw it all, and she rejoiced in heaven. I said it then and I’ll say it now: the angels couldn’t rival mom’s praise to God on that day J

Dr. Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, preached on the Great Commission text of Matthew 28:19-20, reminding us graduates of our responsibility to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. He said something that I think is worth repeating here: when speaking of the great commission, he told us that we don’t need to pray about whether or not we ought to go to the ends of the earth. God has given the command, and the Lord did not stutter when He gave it. He has told us that we should go to the deep, dark places of the earth, and preach the gospel to those who need to hear it. So, what are we waiting for?

When the time arrived for the conferring of the degrees, the faculty stood as Dr. Akin conferred upon me (and 86 other graduates) the degree “Master of Divinity, with all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges pertaining thereof.” Dr. Kenneth D. Keathley, author of “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach,” Dean of the Faculty of Southeastern, as well as Vice President of the Seminary, called the names as nearly 126 students walked across stage to receive their degrees. When he called my name, he addressed me as “Deidre M. Richardson.” While walking across stage, he also took time to give me a “Congratulations, Deidre,” before all of the faculty, graduates, and friends gathered on that day. To say the least, I know that Dr. Keathley is pretty biased towards me. It’s alright...I’m pretty biased towards him as well. I told him during last Thursday’s graduate reception at Dr. Daniel Akin’s home (“Magnolia Hill”) that I guess he has reasons for being biased, to which he responded, “I do.”

The greatest part for me was to walk out of the chapel a graduate, waving at all my friends who have become so dear to me in the last five years of my MDiv degree. Coming down the chapel steps, I felt that a new day had dawned in my life. Dr. Keathley wanted me to introduce him to my mother’s parents (my only set of grandparents still living). I got them to meet him, and I felt so honored when Dr. Keathley told them, “Your granddaughter has a mind greatly attuned to theology, and I am honored to be working with her this coming fall.” I could’ve had a heart attack I was so honored! In addition, “grandma” and “grandpa” got to meet many of my other professors, chief among them being Dr. Bruce Little, head of the Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern. Rather humorously, he told them, “Your granddaughter was a wonderful student...that is, when she wasn’t sleeping.” I have to admit: I did sleep through quite a bit of Dr. Little’s lectures. Do you wanna know how much I slept? So much so that I actually managed to sleep through three semesters with him: Intro to Christian Philosophy, Problem of Evil, and Christian Faith and the Arts. In the intro course, sleeping was a bad idea (considering the class number was so small). In Problem of Evil, I drooled on the wall one day (I’m so sorry, Dr. Little!)...and in Christian Faith, I was awakened by an adopted brother of mine (and classmate) who kicked my foot to wake me up in the middle of a Dr. Little lecture. My grandparents laughed as Dr. Little recalled my sleeping techniques. The interesting thing is that, while I slept in all three classes I took with him, I always awoke recalling everything he had said in class. Call it “sleep osmosis,” I guess.

They also met Dr. David Stephen Hogg, professor of Christian Theology and Church History at SEBTS. He is leaving this June to assume an admin position at Samford University in Alabama. I talked with him privately when asking him for a recommendation to the Master of Theology (ThM) program, and he said that he was excited to be working under Timothy George. I am excited for him. Dr. George is an honorable man of God who loves the Lord, and having Dr. Hogg on his staff is another marvelous blessing in and of itself. I told Dr. Hogg that SEBTS was losing an amazing man of God. I have a right to say that, since I took Dr. Hogg for Church Histories I and II, as well as Christian Theologies II and III (a total of four semesters under his instruction). I recommended him here to students as much as possible, and not one student I recommended him to ever came back and told me, “I didn’t like his classes.” I guess that’s pretty telling of how gifted Dr. Hogg really is. I pray much for him and his transition to a new place. May the Lord watch over him, his wife, and his children, as they begin a new chapter in their lives.

There is someone else that my grandparents got to meet, one who is extremely dear to me, one I cannot finish this post without mentioning: my dear adopted brother, Billy Birch, author of “The Arminian,” as well as a new graduate of The College at Southeastern. For those who know Billy Birch (and those who don’t), he is planning to attend Southeastern Seminary to pursue a Master of Divinity degree this coming Fall 2011. I am praying that he and I get to take classes together. Maybe we can take some classes with Dr. Keathley and totally “overwhelm” him with the presence of two heretics in the room (just kidding!). Billy also got to meet my father, James A. Richardson, whom I’m so thankful got a chance to attend his second-eldest daughter’s seminary graduation (my twin sister is the eldest of his five daughters). Dr. Keathley got to meet him as well, and it was such an honor to get to introduce my dad to all the professors in my life who have impacted me in so many wonderful ways. My dad may never know it, but his “high school sweetheart,” my mother, Teressa A. Richardson, winked at me from above as my dad walked on the campus. I think dad coming was the Lord’s way of making my mother smile as she looked down and saw him there. Mom always wanted me to grow my relationship with my dad, and I think we’re getting there. We’ve had a rather rocky road, particularly after her death...but we’re growing closer. I love my dad and want him to be a part of my life, but I’m still struggling as to how to include him in the everyday things. I trust that the Lord is gonna help me to learn how to bring my father back into my life in a more tangible way. Pray for me in this, will you???

All in all, graduation day was a wonderful success. Although I missed mom dearly, I know that she is extremely proud of my commitment to the Lord’s work and His service. Her parents have been such “angels” in my life, without which, I could not be the woman of God I am today. Mom’s memory will live on; I carry her with me, wherever I go, in whatever I do. And I rejoice that some day, I will see her again. I’ve learned in the last two years that I do not sorrow “as those who have no hope.” I do not cry tears of sadness because I’ll never see her again. Rather, I cry tears of sadness because I miss her now, but I know that the end will more than make up for the time she and I lost here. And I rejoice in the thought of a Savior, a Lord, who has said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And some day when I stand in glory, the Lord will wipe away every tear from my eyes and I will cry no more. And everything will finally make perfect sense. 

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