Phileena Heuertz: The Importance of Silence, Solitude, and Stillness


By Claire Spychalla, Class of 2015

Phileena Heuertz came to speak in chapel and then had a talk-back session with some of us in the Honors Lodge. In her time in chapel, she spoke mainly on the practices of silence, solitude, and stillness. During her talk-back time, she elaborated on why these three things are important. The main thing that they do for us is that they remove some of the big idols that we tend to have and help us to rely solely on God. The three main idols that she talked about were achievement, security, and relationships. These are all good things, but we cannot define ourselves by them. If we tend to find our value in achievement, for instance, then by intentionally setting aside time for stillness we are able to focus on being in God’s presence and enjoying Him, rather than trying to do things for Him. Similarly, if we make relationships an idol, then by practicing solitude we find ourselves alone with God and learn to find our identity in Him apart from other people. Finally, if we struggle with issues of security, then by being silent before God we can silence the voices of our culture, other people, Satan, etc. and listen only to the voice of God, who tells us who we are. Phileena concludes that there really is no better way to overcome our idolatry than by practicing solitude, silence, and stillness in our lives.

Phileena has practiced these three things in her life for many years, and as a result, her relationship to God and her beliefs about what a full and obedient life looks like have changed. In particular, she talked about how, as she spent time with God, she had what she calls a “feminine awakening.” She realized that she had been living her life based on some assumptions about gender roles that were restricting, and as she thought more deeply about what it means to be a woman versus a man, her role in her marriage and in her work began to change. She believes that women’s gifts and talents have been overlooked by a patriarchal church, and she thinks that women ought to have just as much freedom to do what God has gifted them to do as men have. As a woman who has been raised in a church that emphasized differences in gender roles, I’m not sure if I agree with her or not. It is something I have been thinking about a lot, and it is helpful for me to hear her talk about her spiritual journey to get to the place where she is at. Mainly, she wanted to emphasize to us that if we are serious about seeking God, He will lead us into truth, even though that truth may go against what the world tells us. I have been encouraged by listening to her, and I think as a result of hearing her speak, I now have a broader perspective of prayer that will be helpful to me as I grow in my relationship with God.

Reflections From Faith & Writing Festival At Calvin

festival-of-faith-and-writingBy Matt Klingstedt, Class of 2015

This past weekend I had the chance the attend the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. Aside from reminding me how many lovely people there are in the world, one theme stood out to me above all else I heard.

The majority of writers who spoke about their process or vital aspects of life mentioned the importance of listening. It is interesting that so many different writers (mind you, these are people who make a living off their books and blogs) harped on the importance of taking time to be still and shut up. They were not advocating for more time spent praying to God, but for altogether silence in His presence. This took me aback. It is not as though this idea is new to my life. I returned from Spring Break hoping to really set aside some times where I could sit silently, and Dr. Housholder recently spoke in chapel about this same topic.

What took me aback was the way in which all these separate events have come together in a way that demands a physical response. I feel as though the notion of silence popped into my head at the opportune moment of my life so as to really challenge me. Junior year, especially this last semester, has been difficult. I don’t have copious amounts of free time to devote to relationships and time with God and sitting in silence. I am forced to be intentional about them (as cliché as that may sound from a TU student), and often times I do not feel I have time or energy to give.

I feel like God said, “Oh, you want to be still? Okay, here is the busiest two weeks of your semester.” He did not do this to spite me, but to make me give a real answer to the question, “Do you trust me?” This conference was another block of time I did not intend to be still. It was going to be busy and full of life and conversation and literature and exciting and on and on and on…

Instead, I heard Richard Foster tell me there are times in life not to write and not to talk, but to listen to God’s still voice. I heard Luci Shaw and Jeanne Murray Walker tell me to provide space for stillness. I heard Dr. Housholder, in the back of my mind, reminding me that God is in control, regardless of what I do. I came to a conference with over 2,000 attendees at a college with over 4,000 students in a city with over 100,000 people and, somehow, found silence.

I was talking with a fellow student on Saturday and, partially by chance events, decided to put this practice of stillness into practice–we skipped the next session. That may not have been what Richard Foster or others had in mind, but that time away was so incredibly refreshing. I don’t think Calvin set out to have an entire conference and brought in all these speakers and people to reinforce the idea of stillness to a random college kid from Taylor. From my perspective, though, that is exactly what happened and what I am taking away from the Festival.

Anne Lamott said in the Keynote lecture on Friday night that writing and life are pretty similar, and one way they line up is whatever we do, we do badly at first. Doing a quick check at my progress since Spring Break, I have pretty much been terrible at being silent. I have been a failure at setting aside frequent time to do nothing but listen before God. I have practiced silence poorly.

But, I don’t have to be great right away. In fact, I don’t have to be good. Anne Lamott (who is a pretty neat gal) gave me permission to suck on the condition that I keep at it. With this in mind, I will keep trying.

*This is the first in a series of reflections from the Faith & Writing Festival at Calvin.*

Congrats To Honors Guild Seniors!

May is quickly approaching, and soon our graduating Honors Guild seniors will be moving on to the next chapter in their lives. Recently, some of our seniors received word about where they are going to graduate school and what jobs they are taking. As news comes in, we will recognize the achievements of our seniors here on the blog and congratulate them. If anyone hears of other similar news, please let us know.

Two of our current Honors Guild seniors recently were accepted into graduate school. David Chiu has been accepted into Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University for a Masters in Information Systems Management and Sarah Hughes has been accepted to the Baylor College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in Houston, Texas. If you see them, please offer your congratulations.

Stay tuned for future updates for other graduating Honors Guild students!

Nominate a Student for TFAS Programs


Hello Honors Students!

If you might be interested in this great opportunity, let a member of honors leadership know and we’ll find a way to nominate you to go!

Press Release:

“Do you know an outstanding college student who may benefit from and appreciate a TFAS education?

If so, we invite you to nominate him or her today by visiting

Nominated students receive priority scholarship and admissions consideration from our selection committee.

Our final application deadline for the summer 2014 programs is coming up on March 18. Please encourage students to visit to begin an online application.

Remember, we are still running our 2014 Recruitment Contest. To learn how you can recruit students and win prizes, visit

For questions or additional information, please contact Mallie Woodfin, associate for recruitment and admissions for U.S. Programs, at 202.986.0384 or”

Honors Guild in Ireland–Historic Christian Belief


The Honors Guild Freshmen Cohort at the legendary Giant’s Causeway (photo credit: Dr. Michael Harbin)

The Freshmen Cohort of the Taylor Honors Guild has just returned from a remarkable trip to Ireland. The students took a “Religion and Conflict” class which counts for Historic Christian Belief class credit. While in Ireland, they toured major landmarks, both natural and man-made, across the Irish landscape. They learned about the history of the church in Ireland and particularly highlighted the sectarian conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The group came away with a more deeply meaningful understanding of conflict in community and how the Christian narrative can promote peace and reconciliation.

You can read more about their travels in detail at the Travel page on the Honors Blog.

Ethics Bowl Team Continues On To National Tournament


We would like to extend our congratulations to the Ethics Bowl teams for their recent win at the regional competition. Here is Dr. Spiegel’s description of the event:

This past Saturday, November 9, the TU Ethics Bowl team won the regional championship for the second consecutive year and for the 3rd time in the last four years.  Here are the details.  Once again, the competition was held at Marian University in Indianapolis.  And, like last year, we entered three separate teams (the only school to do this), all of which are coached by Cathy Kerton-Johnson and me.  The teams included the following students, including Honors Guild students Suzanne Neefus, Joe Kasper, Blair Hedges, Nathaniel Cullen, and Davis Meadors.

Twenty teams participated in this year’s Central States Regional competition.  The other schools involved were Bellarmine University, Belmont University, Butler University, College of Mount St. Joseph, DePauw University, Eastern Kentucky University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Indiana University, Ivy Tech Community College, Marian University, Northern Kentucky University, University of Louisville, and Xavier University.

Only the top three finishing teams qualify for the national tournament.  At the competition each team competes against three other teams, and our teams had a combined record of 8 wins and 1 loss. In the regional competitions (unlike nationals) wins and losses do not impact teams’ overall scores.  Rankings are determined entirely by scores awarded by judges.

The cases debated at this year’s competition were excruciating as always, including the following:

  • Should bone marrow extraction and transplantation continue to be governed by the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984?
  • Should a particular business owner disclose his employees’ salaries when giving them the rationale for his company’s budget cuts?
  • If autonomous (self-driving) cars become standardized, should humans be forbidden by law to drive?
  • Do American consumers have a moral duty to find alternatives to clothing produced in sweat shops?

These were just four of 15 cases overall that all of the teams had to prepare to address.   Other cases pertained to issues as wide ranging as surrogate motherhood, animal welfare issues, and child obesity public service commercials.  You can find a complete list of cases as well the competition rules and guidelines here:  Not only did our students perform brilliantly in each of the matches, they were also models of respect and politeness, both toward their opponents and the judges.

As in previous years, it has been a joy for Cathy and me to coach such intelligent and morally serious students.  We believe these are Taylor’s finest, and it’s encouraging to know that we’re sending such high caliber young people out into a culture that desperately needs smart Christians with integrity.

The national Ethics Bowl competition is scheduled for February 27, 2014 and will be held at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront Hotel in Jacksonville, Florida.  A total of 32 teams will participate, and Taylor will probably be one of just a couple of Christian schools involved (Whitworth University likely being the only other one).

Dr. Jim Spiegel

We asked our honors students if they might be willing to share about the Ethics bowl. Here’s Suzanne Neefus on her experience with the team:

“This is my third year on the ethics bowl team, and I have loved every moment of the experience. Vibrant friendships grow out of hours of intensive case prep and vigorous debate!

My participation in the ethics bowl team has been profoundly formative in my intellectual development. As we work through cases, I have learned how to critically analyze important issues to uncover the core moral tensions. This process, which involves exploring all points of view, has encouraged me to develop intellectual empathy. In competition we are charged to take objections to our side of the argument seriously, and in developing a better appreciation for other perspectives, I have learned how to disagree generously and constructively.

Also I love the opportunity to delve into practical issues (ranging from environmental, business, political, and medical ethics and more!) with the analytic rigor so often absent from partisan bickering over policy and proper courses of action. Ethics Bowl offers the opportunity to engage with important and interesting real life issues on a deeper level of moral analysis. This experience will serve anyone well, whatever field and profession they pursue.”

Honors Guild at Victory Acres

An old, weather-beaten farmhouse defies the wind’s frenzied rush over the fields to the west of Upland. Situated on a westward facing hill, this small, community-supported farm and ministry center seeks to heal the land and people by modeling sustainable agricultural practices and ministering to those who are hurting. The honors program spent a Saturday morning at this farm, known as Victory Acres, in the spirit of sustainability and service learning. During this time we helped to erect a new hothouse, worked in the current greenhouse, readied seedlings to be planted, made preparations for a barn raising, and ate fruit smoothies and eggs.

Spending the morning outdoors at the farm was invigorating and very enjoyable despite the bitterly cold weather. There is something special about working with the earth that calms one’s spirit and compels a change in perspective. It is so easy to become disconnected in our modern environment from the things of the earth that were essential to the survival of our ancestors only a short time ago. Our climate-controlled rooms and highly developed systems for supplying every need or want cause us to forget how wild and complex and wonderful the world really is. Even a morning at a farm was enough to remind us of the more fundamental aspects of our collective existence – like our dependence on the food that the earth yields and vulnerability to the elemental forces of nature.

The opportunity to implement what we have been learning through service was a welcome opportunity. Going to the farm helped us to overcome a second disconnect between knowing and doing. Living sustainability means ordering one’s life a certain way, taking action to implement what you know. In the absence of action, one must question whether the lesson has been learned after all.

The trip was also a great opportunity to spend time with people away from the distractions of our contemporary existence. Our shared task gave us an element of commonality that allowed us to bond through the activity. If C.S. Lewis’ comparison of friendship to two people walking side by side toward the same goal is accurate, it seems like such a setting is bound to strengthen friendship’s ties. In this sense the work we did at Victory Acres helped us to overcome the things that divide us as people in day-to-day life.

The theme should be obvious by now. Working at Victory Acres gave us the opportunity to surmount the barriers between modern man and nature, learning and doing, and one another. The entire experience, from the farm fresh breakfast to the activities, was wholesome in every sense of the word. This kind of endeavor is also the most sustainable since tension results when we live apart from God’s earth, people, and action motivated by what we know. The trip to Victory Acres was a good reminder of these things and an equally important exercise in their practice.