Renetta Garrison Tull - Online

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Praise & Worship Music -- Academic Church, Part II

I started this post months ago ... in November 2007 in fact; I'm not sure why I didn't finish it. But yesterday I went to the vigil and campus memorial service for one of our undergrads Jamie Heard. Jamie's life touched people whether you knew him or not. The song that I blasted in my car stereo on the way home was a duet by Martha Munizzi and Israel Houghton called "Wrap Me in Your Arms" on the "Change the World" CD ... Track 10. The lyrics are written here, they permeate my mind:

There is a God, who loves me
Who wraps me in His arms.
That is the place, where I'm changed.
That's where I belong.

Take me to that place Lord
To that secret place where
I can be with You
You can make me like You
Wrap me in your arms
Wrap me in your arms
Wrap me in your arms

I'm safe
I'm safe
I'm safe in Your arms.

I've been listening to this CD all week, but last night I really wanted and needed to hear this song. When I say that I blasted it, I mean that I was totally oblivious to anything else at the time and I really, really felt that feeling ... yes, that God really was speaking through the music, and in this case, that I was safe.

I wrote the post below a while ago. I hope that it moves you to contribute ... to add music, lyrics, links, etc. I pray that there will be something posted here that will help someone, maybe even something as simple yet as profound as knowing ... or hearing that Jesus loves you, therefore you can go on.

I've always loved music! My father was the one of the organists for our church growing up, I played piano for the Jr. Choir, one of my brothers also played for the choir and now plays for his own church as an adult. We also grew up with rap, hip hop, R&B. I remember when I used to sing all kinds of songs ... the funny thing was when I eventually figured out what some of the lyrics were saying I suddenly realized that I didn't feel good repeating those words. When I went to college I was introduced to House Music by some of my friends from Chicago and I thought "Ok, now I can party with no guilt because there are no words!" But then I remember going to a club in Chicago with some friends and I saw what people were doing to "just the music." Now I liked to dance, in fact, my nickname used to be "undercover" because I would study but when we had a party or went out I would dance all night (and morning) ... and yes, one time we did close a club in DC (and still went to the football game that morning ... Howard Homecomings ... goodness!) Over time I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. In the clubs there seemed to be too much ... there was more than just dance. There was too much "rubbing," "pumping," etc. You know what I mean. At one club, after seeing people literally all over one another (and more), I just said (or God said) "Ok, that's enough." And that was the last time that I went to a club. I also began to really listen to music ... not just the words, but the beats in the music. I began to question the intent of the writer, the composer, the person who was putting the beats together. Growing up with a little bit of knowledge of the music industry (my Dad had some albums) and talking with friends who are in the Hip Hop promotion business, or who compose beats, write songs, etc., I found out that some people are very intentional with their music. The music may specifically be created for people to party, to feel good about themselves, to express anger, etc. Some people don't care what people use their music for as long as it's "out there." But some people create their music specifically to glorify God, or to bring joy, or to provide peace. I wanted to hear more of that. Now that I'm in my 30's, I realize that I've seen enough to make me upset or angry, I've experienced enough pain, and I determined that I didn't want 'music' to take me anywhere that I didn't want to go unless it was going to be closer to God. I've seen people die, I've experienced murder and suicide (it's no fun having to work with police to ID bodies, contact families, etc.), I've seen the effect of drug-ravaged lives, I've seen sadness, pain, anger, had people stay with me after domestic violence, etc. Am I saying that music is the cause of all of this? Not necessarily, but I do believe that the things that you hear and the intent of the words (and music) lodge in the psyche and can affect one's actions and thought patterns.

Here are some interesting articles:
From Psychology Today:

Here is another article about degrading sexual content in music and behavior from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Now you may not agree with this, but for those of us with children, Godchildren, nieces/nephews, cousins who see them growing up SO fast, see the influences in schools, and wonder where or even how they learn certain words/phrases or are concerned about the images that they see even before they are 6 years old.

And what about music that one listens to while pregnant? There are all kinds of studies being done. Several are in the early stages and have been done with rats (as most biomedical studies are), but there are results that say that the parts of the brains (e.g the hippocampus) of the offspring are more developed when music was introduced prenatally.
Here is some background. You can agree or disagree, but it's food for thought:

Now what kind of music?

So what is my point?
a. Just to add some thought to making musical choices.
b. To add something to the landscape ... perhaps introduce you to some music that you haven't heard, and might like.

I am really fixed now on music that will be positive. But more than that, if music is going to stay in my head, if I'm going to be humming

Israel & New Breed

"Say So"

1) Partial version:
2) Israel & New Breed at the Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia.

"Alpha & Omega"
Israel & New Breed (in South Africa)
This is a glimpse into some pure worship.

"Friend of God"

"We Have Overcome" (at Lakewood in Texas)
Truly multicultural. People of all races and all ages!
Israel singing it by himself, playing the guitar:

"I Know Who I am"
(Acoustic Version)

Chris Tomlin
"How Great is Our God"

This version was put to images:

As you can tell I'm a fan of Israel Houghton and New Breed Music. There's something about the music that they create ... in their last CD, Deeper Level, they fasted and prayed for weeks before recording. God obviously honored that. I saw them in person recently along with Tye Tribbett and GA and was thrilled to see some of our UMBC students there as well ... in Virginia!
I started this post so that it could provide a place on the web for people to share music that inspires. So if you have a song that inspires you, that lifts you up when you are down, that speaks to you in a way that lets you know that God is really talking to you. Please share it here.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Academic Church

At one of our recent student conferences, a student came to the microphone and publicly described one of our graduate student support and development programs as "ACADEMIC CHURCH." He said that sometimes you fall away, and you know what you're supposed to do, then you come back and you know that you're in the right place. I found this description and his heartfelt words both exciting and humbling.

Throughout the rest of that conference segment that allowed students to reflect, there were other sentiments of "academic church" along with a series of "Amens" in the background as people were talking. Again, I found it interesting, but extremely humbling. Actually more than humbling ... I was speechless and nervous ... I remember later praying to ask what that meant ... and if there was anything that I was supposed to be doing. As you know, in the Christian faith, we always desire to be in God's will, so we always want to be doing the right thing. (This reminds me of Philipians 2:13 which says: "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (NIV) ... in the King James it says "both to will and to do of his good pleasure.")

So for a while I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing. I just kept thinking, "WOW, what an awesome thing for so many to feel that strongly about a program that is supposed to be academic." But then I was up early this morning (and wondering why, because I NEED my sleep!) and felt prompted to write. So here is what has been put on my heart: if people see "academic church" or are even looking for it, let's provide something for them to hold onto.

So here's what we're going to do. This space on the internet will be used for people to put encouraging Bible verses -- especially those verses or passages that can be applied to those negative feelings that one has in school. Not just *any* literary inspiring words or general motivational quotes, but actual scriptural verses and passages (with the reference and the version that you are using). Add those verses that kept you going when times were tough. Add those verses that provide joy, peace, patience and faith. You can add just a verse, or add both the verse and the personal story that goes with the reason that you chose it (some call this a "testimony.")

I'll start: when I was doing my dissertation and preparing my defense, I was SO nervous. Here's one of the passages that I held onto ... even when I wasn't sure that things were going right:

------------ JOSHUA CHAPTER 1, verses 5-9, King James Version: ------

5There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

6Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

7Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

8This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

9Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.


So my "testimony" is that God was and IS faithful to his Word. This one example of my nervousness about the dissertation and defense, both successfully completed years ago, shows that these two milestones of the Ph.D. process have long ceased to be symbols of fear and doubt, but now stand strong as testimonies of faith.

OK ... now it's your turn!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Secret

Well, it has been a few months, and I've been contemplating another post for a while. I've wondered what to say and figured that I'll talk briefly about The Secret. Yes, we've heard Oprah talk about the book, she did a show on it, it's even been in the news. But one day, while I was reading my copy of the Living Translation of the Bible, I discovered something that just jumped out. It said: And this is the secret: that the Gentiles will have their full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God's sons; both are invited to belong to his church, and all of God's promises of mighty blessings through Christ apply to them both when they accept the Good News about Christ and what he has done for them. (Ephesians, Chapter 3, Verse 6.) The words "And this is the secret" really made an impression because I'd been hearing so much about what the secret was supposed to be. This says that the secret is that everyone (Gentiles is the name used for people who were not of the Jewish race), yes, everyone ... no matter what race ... who believes in Jesus Christ and that his death was for all of our wrongs -- those that we do deliberately and mistakenly and even unknowingly has the opportunity to have all of God's promises. This is good news because accepting Christ and being a Christian is for everyone.
Here's more from Romans, Chapter 10, verses 9-13: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

So I started thinking about a few things and realized that so many of the things that we get so excited about when we hear it on TV or in the latest book, were really in the Bible all along; for those of us who are Christians, we have to remember to read the Bible ... and not just on Sunday in the church service. So often people say that they don't read the Bible because it's too hard to understand, or because it doesn't make sense. It may be true that some of the translations are harder to read than others, but I invite you to pick a translation that you can understand ... and yes, read it. :) Here's a great online source for any translation that you want:; you can get the New International Version (NIV), King James (the old English version), versions in Spanish, etc. I like The Message version ... talk about something that is easy to understand!! I use the Living Translation because the verses are often combined like paragraphs in a book instead of verses in a poem, and that works for me. But I still use the King James version (especially for the Psalms since those are poems and songs anyway) and read things again there. My Spanish Bible is the Nueva Version Internacional which I like better than the Reina-Velera ... but that's just me.

Here's Ephesians Chapter 3, verses 4-6 (In shorthand, we write: Eph. 3:4-6) in The Message Translation:
As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.

And here it is in Spanish: es decir, que los gentiles son, junto con Israel, beneficiarios de la misma herencia, miembros de un mismo cuerpo y participantes igualmente de la promesa en Cristo Jesús mediante el *evangelio.

In any case, go ahead ... pick up that Bible ... and read it. :) There used to be a joke about the dusty family Bible, but in our generation, we have the quick clicks of links ... so go ahead, click on the Bible gateway link ... and read. If you haven't read the Bible in a long time and are thinking "where do I start?" I recommend starting at The Gospel of John. If you're online on Bible Gateway, you'll see a blank space where you can type any passage and then search. Type John 1 in the space, click search, and read. It will start you off with the NIV version, if that doesn't work for you, go back and try other versions until you find one that is clear to you. I was taught to first pray and ask God to help me to understand what I would be reading ... this has always worked when I've asked sincerely; I may not even understand it immediately, but the understanding does come -- even through talking about what I've read with others.

So go ahead, re-discover your own Bible, go to Bible Gateway and open it online ... May God Bless you as you find so many secrets that were right there all along.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Holy Ambition (Your Purpose)

A few weeks ago I gave a talk to the McNairs and the title of the talk was "Your Purpose: Next Steps." The title was partially inspired by The Purpose Driven Life, but the content of the talk was based on a great book that I read called Holy Ambition. Since I was giving the talk at a university, I didn't talk much about the holy part, but I will add a few extra things here.

Here is the content of the talk: Your Purpose: Next Steps

What is your purpose? You are about to go to grad school and several of you know that I'm a proponent of graduate education - especially the REMs (Ronald E. McNair classes) 12, 13, & 14 since I've had most of you in a class or lecture.

But as you go to graduate school - as you pursue your goals, what is your purpose? Certainly you want to make a decent salary, take care of present/future families, achieve material goals. Of course you want to get the Ph.D. - to be the 1st in your family to achieve such a goal, to be a role model for your family, for your community.

What is your purpose? Purpose is beyond passion - Passion allows you to do what you WANT to do. Purpose allows you to do what you are MEANT to do.

I encourage you to reflect on the reasons why you're pursuing your particular line of research. what is the larger purpose - beyond just getting the Ph.D.? How is your work going to affect society?

I just finished read a book by Chip Ingram on AMBITION, and I wanted to share some thoughts with you as you reflect on your purpose.

Ingram reflects on 6 topics that lead to ambition and greater purpose, I'll mention 5.

A dislocated shoulder is a place where something that is normally functioning is suddenly out of place, injured, ... pained due to a circumstance.
Is there a part of your research that your heart is tied to because there is a problem where you can offer a solution?

I skipped this part because I couldn't think of a way to express it and keep to "the rules" of separation of church and state. But for those of you reading (since there are no such rules here), the broken spirit means that you put pride aside (James 4:6 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.") From the book, Holy Ambition, pg. 73,
A broken spirit begins with a high view of God; a holy view of God. Then, a broken spirit leads us to an accurate view of ourselves.

Pg. 76:
"...Yet until we get a high view of God and an accurate view of ourselves, Jesus will never mean that much to us. Until we see the extent of our need, we can never appreciate the significance of our Saviour. Jesus covers and bridges the distance between a holy God and sinful man. That's you and that's me. He died on the cross to pay for your sin and mine. He loves us. When we come even as believers with a broken spirit, He reminds us that He wants to lift us up. God says of our sins and failures, 'you've owned them. You've confessed them. I will forgive you and cleanse you. I will set you up and I will use you, even you.'"

Back to the rest of the speech ...

As you seek your purpose, as you move forward, remember your faith. When you feel like the solution is beyond your ability to handle it, remember your faith. You don't have to throw it away because you're in grad school.

Have one! Develop one! Consider the steps that it will take to achieve your purpose.

Be committed to working on a problem, seeing it through, regardless of the hardships or difficulties; beyond people who may not support you, beyond lack of motivation, and beyond a new environment.

You must have courage to pursue this goal. You've already shown that you're on the path. You're graduating, you're already pursuing research!

So take the next step, Be BOLD, Have SURE footing, and Walk in your purpose.

(Speech given Monday May 14, 2007, UMBC)

Chip Ingram's podcasts on Holy Ambition are found here:
The book can be found at bookstores and online stores
(e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.)

I met Chip Ingram in Atlanta, and I really like the way he breaks things down. Bible study in a way that is clear and understandable, and more importantly, livable. You can also listen on WAVA, 105.1, (Wash. D.C.), at 10 a.m. weekdays, or online anytime:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wow, what a world!

A few weeks ago, following the UMBC Research Symposium, I was talking with a group of students about some of the research that we'd observed throughout the day. We were all impressed by the various projects and the depth of scope in some of the work. As we were discussing the joys of discovering things that were new to us, somehow we ended up talking about creatures of the sea (The Discovery Channel's "Blue Planet" was about to air) and some of the creatures that are discussed in the Bible. Have you ever read this verse in Revelations Chapter 4: 6-8 (New King James Version)?

"Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “ Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” "

When I read this for the first time, I remember ignoring it. It was just too "different" to comprehend. I've been recently more fascinated and believe that it's too awesome to ignore. I'll tell you why. After learning about some of the animals under the sea, I began to see that there are already creatures that have some of these unimaginable characteristics. Let's take a look:

But my absolute favorites are these from Claire Nouvian's book: "The Deep"

Weird? Scary even? Yes to both for me! After all, I heard someone say that the Dumbo Octopus on the right looks like it has a finger for a nose. The marrus orthocanna on the left is a deep sea siphonophore, part of the jellyfish family. I once read that sometimes you can see their digestive systems through their transparent tissues. And the middle picture is in the finfan angler family, and they look simultaneously fascinating and frightening. (Here's more about a deep sea project -the Serpent Project- between BP and the University of Southhampton in the U.K.:

So my new thought is as follows:

If these creatures exist now -- on this earth, why shouldn't I be able to wrap my mind around creatures with 6 wings and full of eyes that will give glory to a Holy God in heaven?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Va. Tech Thoughts pt. 2, An Administrator's View

Thanks to friends and family who called/emailed to see how I was doing regarding the Va. Tech situation. I'm not at Va. Tech, and it's hard to even imagine the pain that everyone is feeling. From an administrator's point of view, I know from experience that it's hard to deal with tragic events on campus. I've had to deal with illnesses and even death, working with police, visiting students in the hospital, going to and even organizing campus memorials or information sessions. I've had my share of talking to family members left behind, helping students to cope, offering a shoulder to cry on. The interesting thing is that in all of this, sometimes I'm really nervous or scared,and I really and truly have to rely on God -- his strength and wisdom to help me make critical decisions and stay strong for the sake of the masses.

Many of you know that one of the most difficult situations in my life was losing one of my students, Jessica Soto Perez. I was on my way home after a meeting with grad students when two other students called my cell phone and told me that I had to come back to campus immediately. It's still painful to recall the details, the scene, to re-visit the emotions. I remember having to remain composed, deal with police, calm others, get information, make identifications, etc. There was no one else around, the other deans weren't on campus that day, plus it was after 4:30. I was the only administrative person around. I didn't go home until late that night, I watched the news still not really believing it even though I had been there.

That night was filled with making phone calls, the next days were excruciating. Still not believing what had happened, still not believing that such a shining star was gone from the earth. After all, less than 24 hours before, she was in my office, reminding me to recommend her for a conference, talking about her beloved Puerto Rico. Less than 24 hours before, she'd said good-bye with a hug and kiss on the cheek -- she always did that, all of my students from PR do. That day, the day after there were meetings, press conferences, student forums, etc. Then there was meeting the family, talking to them, not wanting to face them, not wanting to even imagine their sorrow.

To bring this around to a positive point, I think that it's interesting to see where we are now. Jessica would have been SO proud of all of her friends! Several of them (many in the pictures on the website below) have since finished their Ph.D.s, some of teaching in the Baltimore schools, some are now married. And me? I promised Jessica's Mother, family and professors at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez that I would continue to work to make sure that students from PR are able to reach their goal of obtaining the Ph.D.

It's been a few years now, that happened in 2004. Jessica's family has been so wonderful. My husband and I go to visit them when we have meetings in Puerto Rico, and they treat us like family. My Spanish is a little bit better, though I still have a long way to go. I've learned even more about God's peace -- that peace that passes all understanding. Remember that? It's in Phillipians 4:7!
Here is the whole chapter, there's so much to hold onto!
Phillipians Chapter 4

So, in the wake of Va. Tech., my heart goes out to all of those left behind to deal with the aftermath. May this tragic event take a turn, turn what was meant for evil into something good. Something good that will go far beyond the reach of Blacksburg, VA. I'm not sure what those good things will be, but with all of the prayers that are being said, with all of the love that is being shown on that campus, something is bound to happen! The prayers of the righteous avail much (James 5:16b), whole chapter NIV: James Chapter 5

I know that experiencing the loss of one student made a huge difference in my life, and her life's legacy has impacted tremendous numbers of students. There is a Bridge Fund in her name, a service award in her name, and we give her tribute annually so that every new PROMISE student knows her legacy.

To Mami Luci and the Soto Perez family: Que Dios te bendiga!
To all of the friends, family, campus community at Va. Tech: God Bless You!

To read more about Jessica, see her tribute webpage:

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Situation at VA Tech

I was stunned this afternoon when one of the PROMISE Graduate Assistants at UMCP came into the office and asked if I'd heard about VA Tech. I hadn't, so I went to google news immediately. It's nearly 8 p.m and I'm still peeled to the TV news to see if I can learn more. My Goodness! I care about all of the victims, and this especially hits home because as a campus administrator, I'm naturally concerned about the students on any campus. I'm also wondering about the well-being of our fellow NSBE, SHPE, and AISES students ... especially since the shootings took place in Norris Hall, the Engineering Building. In NSBE, VA Tech is in Region II, and I used to be the Region II Vice Chair many years ago. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the students, faculty, and staff who were lost in this tragic event. May peace reign going forward.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Another Ph.D. joins the ranks!

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Doctoral Dissertation Defense for one of our PROMISE students. She did a fabulous job and demonstrated her excellent science! Her advisor and committee used words like "outstanding" and "fantastic" to describe both her and her work. Days like today make those days when she and others were thinking about quitting. One of her friends, another recent Ph.D. was also in the group today. I was so proud to share in the celebration. So my word for the day is PERSEVERE! The dictionary says:
  • hang in, hold on,
  • be persistent, refuse to stop
If you're just applying to college or grad school or if you're a current student working toward your degree(s), keep plugging along; don't give up!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Connecting Work & Faith

My Christian faith is so much a part of me. I started this blog in December, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. I decided to develop it so that I could have an outlet to encourage college students based on Biblical principles. There's an old adage that says, " As long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in schools!" My plan to make this a forum to share information that will be encouraging and empowering! Let's see how it goes.

Something to meditate on (we recite this every Sunday at Mount Pleasant):
2nd Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work