Now that we’ve heard from this year’s interns on their 5 things, we thought we’d hear some of the voices of the incoming intern crew. Incoming intern Branden Griffith shares his thoughts on the upcoming year:
Stepping forward into a new year (and a new position) at the INN, I have started to freak out a bit. Fortunately, these minor freak outs have been a good way to get me to learn more about myself and be comfortable in a new step outside my comfort zone. I’ll admit this internship was something initially I said that I would not do, and I was stubborn, hard-headed and positive that my next year would be out of a college town and into my professional career. Now I find myself flirting with the idea of making ministry my professional career and it is scary, but here are the five things that have led me to where I am now, and the things that made me excited to serve next year:
1. God is constantly pulling us into something new.
Whether we are being pushed into discomfort and pain or taking on a new opportunity that fell into our laps, we are not meant to be stagnant. I had reached a place where I was doing everything I could to not make any real leap of faith or put any of my burdens on God, knowing full well that I was not really investing in my faith. This jump into the internship has been that step for me, and it is a similar step that I hope to help guide in my position next year.
2. We need to be bold.
I became a Christian in college and it was a quiet affair. I am excited to finally be honest about this God who has compelled me and overcome my life with grace and the desire to discern his will for me. This internship is pulling me into boldness of faith, to share what I have so gratefully been given, and to have the conversations that were had with me in order to inspire a desire to proclaim God freely.
3. God uses broken people.
I was scared to serve next year as an intern, and I thought that my mistakes and my brokenness would prevent me from being a light in another person’s life. However, after countless conversations, I found that God has never used the strong to lead the weak. Instead, God moves through broken people to lead. From David, the youngest, overlooked son of a soldiering family who defeated a giant and became a king, to the fishermen who became Jesus’ closest followers, God has continually used people not considered strong or powerful. There is relief in this for me and hopefully all of us as we are called into boldness and speaking into other’s lives.
4. God uses funny people, too.
Fortunately, not all we do in ministry is about brokenness. Over my four years at the INN, I have had some of the best times I have ever had in college. We have played in intramurals, camped, hiked, and carnivaled. God has used some of the strangest talents (be prepared for Lyndsey Plute’s unicycling next year) and some of the funniest people (I think I’m funny and that’s all that matters) to make ministry about learning, but also about enjoying God and the community he has given us. That reminds me…
5. Community is pretty awesome.
The number one reason I am doing this internship next year is because our community at the INN is so great that I couldn’t stand leaving it so soon ;) In all seriousness, this community cries with you in times of sadness and laughs in times of joy. God is present and moving through the people at the INN, and I can tell that next year is going to be a big year as we are called into new things. Fortunately, God has given us each other to go along for the ride as he shows us the work He is doing on campus and in the hearts of students. I suggest we buckle up!
Fear. I’ve let it control me, manipulate me, and tear me down almost my whole life. But my senior year of high school I was diagnosed with chronic migraines and a severe anxiety disorder. I had never been so afraid, or felt so abandoned by the God that I thought loved me. I could barely leave my own house, let alone go to school, and almost didn’t graduate. I was filled with pain, anxiety, loss of sleep, depression, and at times…thoughts of suicide. Why me? What have I done, Lord, to make you so angry with me? I have been a Christian since I was a little girl, my life relatively normal, no huge staggering moments. But this, this was the first time I believe I was truly tested. Though, at the time, I didn’t see it that way.
Long story short, over the period of about 3 years I had many counseling appointments, biofeedback, and loving friends and family that got me through the worst of it. I still get migraines occasionally and my anxiety is nothing like it used to be but it’s still a struggle at times. Things finally started to come back together. But where does the INN come in? I moved to Bellingham almost a year ago and heard about the ministry from people at my church back home so I decided to check it out. Oh man, I was so scared! I knew almost nobody there, but the instant I walked through those double doors I felt so welcome. The atmosphere, the people, the music, I loved it! But not until more pain entered my life did I truly realize how much more the INN was. Funny how God works, huh?
2012 & beginning of 2013 was another rough patch. It was a year of many firsts, of being on my own and learning to truly rely on God. I found myself falling into my anxiety again, but this time I was on my own. The INN was the only place I found comfort—many of the leaders and interns took time out of their day to encourage me and listen to my struggles. I can’t even count the amount of coffee visits I had! As I continued going to the INN I really felt my connection with God growing back together. When the INN announced the spring break mission trips I knew it was time to give back. So many people had helped me get to where I am today and if I could just make one person feel the love I’ve felt it would make everything worth it.
Unfortunately around the same time I made the decision to move back home so it made fundraising a little difficult and I didn’t really have a lot of opportunities to get to know my team. But spring break 2013, I went to Trenton, New Jersey with 20 complete strangers and came back with 20 friends! God is so good. I had never experienced so many emotions in one week! I was forced out of my comfort zone and saw God work in ways I had never experienced before. I had never felt so much love and kindness from people that just met me. Best week of my life, hands down.
I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, and I know now that the struggles I’ve had so early in life have made me so much stronger. God shows his love in mysterious and unexpected ways. When we put our comfort zones and fears aside, and give everything we have to him he fills us with blessings! A lot of people have gotten me to where I am today who I am so thankful for, but the INN has truly changed my life and words can never express the gratitude and love I have for everyone there. To the leaders, to my mission trip team, to the INN. I love you with all my heart, I hope to see you all again soon!
So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Now that we’ve heard from this year’s interns on their 5 things, we thought we’d hear some of the voices of the incoming intern crew. Please welcome incoming INNtern, Aimée Allen.
I love coffee. After spending eight months in Costa Rica, three trips to Guatemala, and more than three years in Bellingham, I have grown to appreciate really good coffee, and it’s pretty much the only thing I allow myself to splurge on. But besides being delicious and full of wonderful caffeine, coffee is a daily necessity for many college students, and provides a wonderful opportunity for getting together to talk about life. I’m really excited to share coffee with students.
My most apparent spiritual gift is service, and through servant leadership, I have discovered that I’m not alone in this. Last year I was part of planning a serve day, and when I called students after to follow up, the feedback I got from everyone was, “It was awesome! When is the next one?” I’m wonderfully excited to share service with students.
3. Mission trips
Mission trips have held a special place in my heart for a very long time. Short-term mission trips change lives - both the lives of the people we serve and the people who go. I’ve seen God do some truly incredible things in and through people on mission trips, and it’s powerful. I’m exceedingly excited to share an amazing, week-long adventure with a group of students.
A lot of people have a lot of great things to say about laughter. It’s the best medicine, it makes you live longer, it’s good exercise. I love the way laughter can bring people together and create friendships and bonds unlike any other. I’m profoundly excited to laugh with students.
At the INN last fall, we talked about moving into the neighborhood like Jesus did in John 1:14, where He became flesh and blood and came to our world to be with us. He moved in and did life with people and loved them. It’s as simple as that. I want to do life with students and move into the neighborhood that is Western’s campus and not only live there, but seek people out and do life with them. I’m extraordinarily excited to share life with students.
Yesterday was a big day. Yesterday was the day that our youngest, Caleb, learned to ride on two wheels. We say, its like learning to ride a bike, when we want to talk about something, which when learned, will feel natural and easy the rest of your life. It’s a phrase of hope to help us push through what feels totally unnatural and impossible today. As he told us later on our way to victory ice cream, what seemed real to Caleb earlier was that today was going to just be another Scary Fail Day.
As we talk about being compelled this quarter, its important to remember that we can be compelled by all kinds of things in all kinds of directions. What we want to push on this quarter is the question of what it means to be compelled by the Risen Jesus. Truth be told, it’s quite easy for us to be compelled by the perception that today is going to be just another Scary Fail Day and begin to assume that what might be true for others just isn’t going to happen for us and there’s not much we can do about it. That’s why I love Paul’s words to the young Timothy.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
A spirit of timidity is that spirit of assuming today is just another Scary Fail Day. It’s the spirit that says that there isn’t much use in trying because there is no way that you can accomplish what is before you and starts coming up with all kinds of reasons why not. It’s not the Spirit God gives.
What’s before you today, this quarter, this year, that stokes up a spirit of timidity?
The Spirit God gives is one that moves us beyond the very real and understandable reasons for timidity and into a reality bigger than we know now. It compels us forward through the reasons that tell us it’s not worth trying.
It’s a Spirit of:
Power. The ability to meet the task or challenge, the potential to exert force, even force beyond what you can imagine. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that launches the church in the book of Acts (1:8).
Love. Agape, love of will, decision and grace. Love that guides desire instead of being ruled by desire. Love that choses what is best, what is faithful, what is solid. It’s the substance of love that isn’t blown this way and that (Colossians 3:12ff)
Self – Discipline. Wisdom, focus, what is sensible, awareness of what is best and how to get there. It’s the clarity of direction that doesn’t run in circles chasing fads.
Before the things with are stoking a spirit of timidity, fan into flame the gifts that God has give you! (2 Timothy 1:6) Before action comes prayer that informs our action.
Perhaps today, your prayer might be for the Holy Spirit to grow in you a new awareness of God’s power, His love and the His wisdom for what lies before you.
Peace :: Jon
Now that we’ve heard from this year’s interns on their 5 things, we thought we’d hear some of the voices of the incoming intern crew. Here is our first post from incoming INNtern, Lyndsey Plute.
Ever since my sophomore year at Western, applying for the INN internship has been at the forefront of my mind. And now that it’s finally here, I couldn’t be more excited! I came to faith as a freshman through the intentionality of friends and mentors, and as I became more involved, my interest in working in ministry increased just the same. Graduation is fast approaching which means these friends move away and this amazing phase of life is coming to a close. Though I’m dreading the emotional sadness that comes with it, I also wish that the start of next year would come sooner. Though we can learn by looking BACK to old ways, I am excited to look FORWARD to a new year.
1. I’m looking forward to seeing God work.
Lately, there has been a surprising increase in the amount of students that suffer from anxiety and loneliness that are on Western’s campus. The counseling offices are taking in more students than there ever has been, and suicide accounts for a large amount of college deaths. As we enter into this new period, I am thrilled to be a part of the vision to enter into these students lives and let God work through us. He has a plan for the people we encounter, the conversations we have and the amazing interconnection of stories we will live. We are God’s servants waiting to be used, and through our trust He will guide us into those places.
2. I’m looking forward to conversation.
Part of why I’m a small group leader is because I value verbal communication. It largely contributes to growth in relationship and wisdom with our Creator. We are vessels of God’s truth and we get to share that with and learn from each other through discussion and dialogue with students and as a team.
3. I’m looking forward to creativity.
God is our creator, and we are in his image, so we are creative too! I’m passionate about graphic design, art, and music and am excited to invite students into using creative expression as a way to connect with God. I also love getting imaginative with events and retreats, such as planning dance parties, skits, games, and social activities. Bring on the fun!
4. I’m looking forward to working as a dynamic team.
I can already tell that our team is going to have a great year together! We recently spent a weekend down in Portland, and I caught a glimpse of our supportive and complimentary interactions with one another. We all have different gifts and strengths which I know will be unified to bring glory to God as we work next year. When we are together, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:12: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
5. I’m looking forward to being challenged in new ways.
Working in ministry comes with many unexpected challenges. We may have ideas of what those challenges may be, but most likely we will be stretched in ways that we can never predict. As we prepare, all I can say is, “Here I am, Lord.”
Reconciling faith in Christ with personal goals and desires is no easy task. At least it hasn’t been for me.
When asked to outwardly express five things I thought could help students have a lasting faith, I first had to look inward. These thoughts and questions reflect my own personal struggles, with desires that seemed to threaten my walk with Christ. Grace has more than covered me when my answers weren’t quite right. Still, it never hurts to ask challenging questions. The answers, good or bad, are compelling me to seek to be a stronger person, with a healthier faith. It’s always a work in progress, but there is progress. Maybe these questions can have the same affect for you.
1. Do you truly trust in God to provide what you need?
“God will not lead us except for his own glory and he cannot lead us if we resist his will”. Listening to God in Times of Choice - Gordon T. Smith
Scripture abounds with words telling us to trust God. Jesus says it best in Matthew 6: 25-34. We hear it all the time. But it’s tough to truly act as if we believe that. I find myself desiring security. I don’t always see security when I look at my own cloudy future. I’m sure a college student can relate. But when we step out, we typically find a step in front of us. Think Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, walking across the invisible bridge. Yeah, that reference is a bit cheesy. But it illustrates the truth. God knows the path. We can’t see it until we’re standing on top of it. If you even try to follow him, right or wrong, he will keep a path beneath your feet.
2. Where does your peace come from?
“If in our prayer we are self-righteous, proud of our work or character, imagining the great things we could do for God, or if we are despising others, envying others or feeling the heat of anger against others, then surely our peace is not from God.”
Listening to God in Times of Choice - Gordon T. Smith
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Brenton read a Gordon T. Smith book. Seriously though, it’s a great statement that may feel convicting, but has great value in checking our pride. Most of us have probably heard the phrase “once you think you are humble, you’re not”. It’s a quote that leaves us with little hope of ever conquering pride. The best we can do is to be mindful of it. Let things go, forgive, don’t be so easily offended.
3. Does who you are line up with how you’re serving God?
Serving God can look like anything from standing in a pulpit preaching, to being a friendly presence shining light in your workplace. We’re all called to serve in different capacities. But the key piece there is that we’re all called. To be honest I’m not entirely sure how to apply this to everybody’s everyday life. But here’s my best shot. When I worked at various companies in Bellingham doing jobs that required me to deal constantly with large amounts of people, I hated life. When I try to speak in front of groups larger than about seven people, I struggle. These are things that I just wasn’t created to do. Therefore they are things that God isn’t calling me to do, seeing as he’s the one that created me. We all have things that we aren’t created to do. Try not to put yourself in a position where your life revolves around doing those things. You’ll find it easier to be joyful and positive when you aren’t challenged every second of every day. All this isn’t to say that we won’t have to face our challenges, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend backing down from challenges. But I will say that we tend to feel more fruitful when we’re pushing ourselves in areas where we feel equipped and inspired.
4. Who does your time belong to?
I’ve struggled a lot with wanting my time to be just that, MY TIME. When I successfully make it my time, I tend to seek either recreation or a couch. We all have things we would like to spend hours on. It’s incredibly easy to not leave time for prayer and scripture reading. It’s easy not to leave time to sleep, study, relax, eat properly, be with friends, be with family, be in church, etc. God created us to be social, love those around us, and yes, eat and sleep. Trust that God will provide time to do the things you gravitate towards. Push yourself to freely give time to the areas you tend to shy away from when you know that’s where your time needs to be spent. Some of us need to spend a little more time relaxing and seeing friends. Others should probably spend more appropriate hours working diligently, and trust that we’ll get our breaks. This isn’t a call to make yourself suffer or to work non-stop. It’s more a call to prioritize things and give time appropriately.
5. Are you being edified?
Be listening to the voices of reason, and be willing to check yourself when they say something you don’t like. To be a voice of reason, someone has to truly have your best interest in mind, often times more so than you do. By now you probably know who those people are. Be willing to listen to them. And as much as I hate to point this out, College doesn’t last forever, so you won’t be at your choice college ministry forever. When the time comes to take that next step in life, make sure you’re seeking and stepping into a new community. Don’t leave a void where that need is.
We’ll call this last part 5.5. After that last bit I feel the need to say this: be present where you are now. Good things come and go. This year I have great co-workers, a great place to live, and in general great people in my life. You probably do as well. Even in the worst of places, there are great things. I have fond memories of good people from even the toughest parts of my life. You probably do as well. Take in the sights. Take time to give thanks, and recognize that you’re thankful for the great things in front of you. You’ll find that it helps you trust in God’s ability and willingness to provide down the road.
I believe in the power of stories. So much so that I decided to get a degree in story-telling. Officially it is referred to as an English degree with an Emphasis on Creative Writing, my focus being creative nonfiction, but when it comes down to it, every class I took, every assignment I was given, and every text I had to read came down to the art of story-telling. The importance of crafting words in a way that authentically, artfully, and meaningfully told a story: of you or of another being. As a Christian I believe that every person was slowly and purposefully crafted by God and thus every one person is inherently, incredibly valuable. As a writer, I believe that my job is to tell the stories that make up those important people. As a person and friend, my job is to seek people out and truly listen to those stories.
One of the core values of Collide is authentes, which means to tell your story as it is. Not what you think it should be, not what you wish it was, but how your life has truly unfolded and how that journey has made you who you are. This is what is so incredible about Collide and why I have felt to blessed to work alongside Willow and the Collide team as they put it on each quarter: not only does it give women a chance to tell their story as it is, but it gives them a chance to change their story forever by meeting Jesus and colliding with his love, grace, forgiveness and hope. Hundreds of women hear how God has changed others and can start to dream about what healing transformation could look like in their own lives. It changes everything.
There are not very many environments today where we can be authentic and real with women around us. Where we can tell our stories without judgment or guilt, where we can intentionally enter others’ stories and join them on a journey to wholeness. Collide is that place. Collide gives stories life and allows women to look towards an even better story: the future that God has for them. Last year, attending Collide as a student helped me make some huge decisions in my own life and changed my narrative forever. Women, I urge you to join us this Saturday for Collide: Behind & Before to hear stories of real women from our community who have been forever changed by grace. Bring your friends, your open hearts, your dreams, and your stories.
INN intern Charity Hestead blogged last week responding to a question posed to us three interns: What are five things we would want to say to students regarding living a compelled, faithful life? This week I have been asked to share my response to the same question.
This series is appropriate to this time of year. In the last few months before summer, interns, graduates, staff, students, we all start to look at what’s ahead, impatiently thumbing through pages to try to catch a glimpse of what comes in the next chapter of our lives. It’s an exciting time and a little crazy. In the past few weeks I’ve felt myself thinking back to the disciples in the years following his resurrection. What was it about the character of God that compelled them to a life drastically different than their lives before? What is it about the character of God that compels us now to a restoring life of faith? After many years in college and this past year as an intern, here are five things most pressing on my mind that I want to share with students that compels me towards a life in Christ:
1. God’s love is persistent and unending. He will never let you go. He has never let me go. Over the years spent in school at Western and abroad, I was constantly oscillating between belief, and wandering, faltering, spiritual exploration. I wasn’t content with a faith that left so many open questions. But I was similarly discontent with the absence of faith in my life and in a world that desperately needed love, grace, and restoration. I was scared of doubting. It took a long time before I could take a step away from my faith. And yet, when I was furthest away from the church, furthest away from Christian culture, Christ drew me back in. Living at a Buddhist temple in Korea, I met a student studying to be a Buddhist minister, and somehow through God’s work in her, I found my faith restored. In college more than ever I’ve realized that He is the Father that can always take you back and that always has more to give. That’s worth holding onto. That’s worth sharing.
So here’s what I’m holding on to: Don’t be afraid when you falter. Don’t be afraid when you doubt. When others doubt around you, you don’t have to fix it right then and there. I have to remember that relationship with Christ is different than any relationship we experience. There will always be times when we are let down by friends, hurt by family. He will not break our trust. He will not leave us even when we feel empty and alone. Ask questions and don’t give up. He will never let you go.
2. God knows suffering. He has been there. Particularly meaningful are these past few weeks as I’ve reflected on the experience of our mission team this spring break. We traveled to Guatemala to serve, worship and live among others during Holy Week. We saw many of the ceremonies put on by the Catholic Church in Latin America including a passion play. There is something powerful about seeing a live reenactment of the passion. It takes you to the place, and it forces you to enter a little more into the reality of Christ’s sacrifice. When I came back from Guatemala I was still fixed on that image of Jesus tossed into the dust at the foot of the soldiers. His body was broken, bloodied. It doesn’t always hit us as it should. But it’s hit me these past weeks hard. I’ve experienced a lot of death this year: the deaths of a friend, of my roommate, and of my grandfather. The knowledge of Christ’s suffering and death never fully repairs the feeling of loss, but I know that he feels our loss, and that he suffers beside us.
What I’m holding on to: Don’t be afraid to mourn. Even in company, Christ cried upon hearing that a man, Lazarus, was dead. Most importantly, allow yourself time and space to grieve and if tears don’t come, don’t feel bad about that either. In sharing someone’s grief, you don’t need to say anything to fix it, just grieve with them. God has suffered. God has cried. He is present when we mourn. We can be present for others.
3. God helps us do MORE than what we hope to do. I’m like a cynical magpie. My natural instinct is to collect little shards of memories of past failures to fill my nest. Failures are so much easier to draw from your memory than victories. It’s in these moments, when I’m really overwhelmed that I want to remind myself: God helps us do MORE than what we hope to do. And yes, there’s a little room for the possibility that what God will help me do is not what I hope to. But if I keep my sights and passions on doing great things in the world, he will help me achieve something bigger.
What I’m holding on to: Keep shooting higher than what you think you can achieve. You will probably once, twice, maybe a dozen times be disappointed. Because God is BIGGER than us, it is reasonable that we can be disappointed when his BIG plans don’t match up to our little ones. But he has plans for us. So if you’re pride is small enough, and your heart is big enough, take on the hard stuff you are passionate about and shoot high.
4. God offers grace beside justice. His grace does not replace justice, it is not beneath justice, but it comes beside justice. When the Pharisees assembled to stone the adulterous woman, Jesus says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s not that the woman is in the right for the choices she has made, but that the accusers are in the wrong. I’ve hurt others for the sake of myself. I’ve forgotten my faith. I am in the wrong. But God is full of grace. God breathes life into me. He doesn’t just say its ok, but he restores us from where we’ve come.
What I’m holding on to: Kick the dust off your feet, the guilt, the failure, the loss, and follow Him out.
5. God asks us to be servants in what we do and in how we love. The servant Christ embodies and that the letter writers describe is selfless, humble, and sacrificial. There’s a lot to talk about there, but I’ll keep it short. For me, this is my commission, my call to action. Despite the years I spent in college, I’m still not entirely sure where my career will take me or what my life might look like in ten years. As Christians a lot of us act on this by finding majors that rally around a good cause like human health and well-being, social justice (human service majors anybody?), or in my case, education. I think we are looking for a passion that aligns with Christ values, and for good reason. But I’m realizing that if our passion lies in following Christ, our careers will not make us the servants we want to be, no matter how noble they are. It is the way we approach our work, our home, our friends, our families, our neighbors that will determine how well we can fulfill our calling. Whatever I do, I’m holding on to that.
What I’m holding on to: You only live once (after a month of office jokes I couldn’t resist that line), so live it well, live finding ways every day to serve others, to hope and to love.
- Kevin Eyer, Intern
What compels me? There are of course, many things, which I find compelling. We live in a beautiful and fascinating world created by an amazing God. The possibilities are endless.
Appreciation for endless possibilities doesn’t compel anyone forward in one direction over another. If anything it can create paralysis. At some point for all of us, we have to focus in on those few things, which define our path and our work - those things that call us forward.
As I consider my life compelled by the call of Jesus, clarity distills around three convictions that continue to capture my imagination and compel me ever forward.
1. Salvation runs deep
From an early age I heard and received the invitation to salvation in Jesus. I knew that I needed forgiveness beyond my own control or power. I knew that I was being called into a deep rich life bigger than me.
Even as young kid though, I knew that this was only the beginning - I wasn’t done because I was good with God. I would read Paul’s letters to the early churches and long for the power, beauty, grace and truth that he would so eloquently speak of - not just for someday but for today. I would read Paul’s honest articulations of the battle inside between what we long for and what we too often do and would realize that he was speaking of my experience as well.
It’s when I discovered what Paul means when he talks about living worthy of the Lord, presenting everyone complete or perfect before God and even what Jesus was driving at in his famous Sermon about, “being perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” that I finally began to have words to describe the depth of salvation.
Salvation is also about a life long journey of being restored at our very core to the character of our Heavenly Father. It’s about freedom - from anger, lust, deceit, greed, hypocrisy, and anxiety. It’s about the power of God being released in us for insight, knowledge, humility, strength and joy and redemptive influence.
Salvation runs deep to free me from myself and the wounding that I’ve received.
2. Salvation runs wide
In high school I began wrestling with a question about what path is the more faithful one as a follower of Jesus: the one of my grandfather as pastor or of my dad as public school teacher? Combine that with the infighting and drama that I at times observed in our local church and I prayed that God’s salvation was wider than what happened on Sundays in a little church building.
As I continued to follow Jesus, study scripture and reflect on some of the great Christian thinkers I’ve come to find that my heart’s cry wasn’t misdirected. Following Jesus isn’t just a personal affair for my private individual spirituality or one confined to “church” activities.
God’s work of salvation runs wide! It’s about restoration in all the areas of life - those areas where I longed to see healing and flourishing in the world far beyond a Sunday school classroom! Genesis 1-2, Colossians 1 and Revelation 21-22 all point to a call to join God in His creative and healing work of cosmic implications.
This means your major matters. Where you work matters. Your community life and involvement matters. Your city matters. Your university matters!
3. God is always out in front
Jesus begins his movement by asking his disciples to, “come and follow me.” Later in Matthew when he sends his disciples out into the entire world, he sends them out with all authority and the assurance that; “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Too often we take ourselves too seriously, which manifests itself in either massive anxiety or blind arrogance. God doesn’t need us, He wants us.
God has always been the main actor in Scripture pursuing his people even as they turn away again and again. He is always picking us out of pits we fall in (mercy), putting our feet back on solid ground and giving a glorious future we don’t deserve (grace).
I’m compelled today to be part of releasing in this moment God’s future. This means I live with a crazy hope that isn’t defined by what is but by what God is and will do. It means I live compelled by the conviction that Jesus will do amazing things in and through college students and young adults. Things I and the leaders of today can only imagine.
God is not stuck anxiously in the past – with saints, leaders, programs, organizational models – He is in the future.
I think in terms of the language of David and Goliath, language that has captured the imaginations of our wider culture.
For every Goliath that rises to insult, debase, threaten and paralyze, God is raising up Davids - men and women - who for God’s glory will do what we cannot currently see as possible.
These three things inform how I think about everything we do at the INN including how I think about Servant Leadership. Servant Leadership isn’t just about creating an opportunity for students to take ownership in the mission of the INN – it’s also about actively discovering the depth and width of God’s salvation and how they are uniquely called to be part of it.
May we all be compelled deeper into the heart of heart of God no matter where we find ourselves on the journey of faith.
Peace :: Jon
This year is quickly coming to its end, which has all of us at the INN pondering what we must do with the time we have left. What tasks must be finished, memories celebrated, meetings had, events planned, or books read? As we discussed this, Jon posed this question to us three interns: what are five things you want to say to students regarding living a compelled, faithful life? I considered his question, thinking about the things I think college-aged people need to hear the most, and what can I offer to that after a year of interning with a college ministry. Though far from all-inclusive, here are the five most important things I want to say to students to inspire them to live a beautiful, faithful life:
1.You are who you are and where you are for a reason, so bloom where you are planted.
The enormous amount of experiences, people, and environments that shaped you into who you are right now is not random. The person you are is not the result of fate, or accident, or chance. Every piece of your life has been put together to form you, and God has been beside you the entire way. Not only that, but he loves and delights in who you are. Every movement and action in your life also brought you to where you are now—geographically, emotionally, etc etc. So recognize that you, just as you are, are here for a reason. You have a purpose in your community, and have something to give that can only come from you. Bloom where you are planted—love those around you, do good in your community, don’t hide your talents. Share your story with others—the good, the bad, the things you wish you could forget. Be open with the people you come in contact with, and listen long enough for them to be open with you. Do the best you can, right where you are, because you are meant to be there right now.
2.Take on your doubts and never stop learning.
The last year has been full of doubts for me. Though I don’t think I ever stopped believing there is a God, the importance of following him withered in my mind, and questions crept in: does it really matter to be a part of a religious community? What’s the point of believing in him and following the statutes of the Bible? Do I really care about telling others about Jesus? Does he really care about me? Do the actions of my life actually matter? What’s the point, what’s the point, what’s the point? Immediately after allowing these thought to surface came the guilt and the fear. It scared me that I was entertaining doubts about Jesus because I had never done this before; with a pastor for a dad and a church family since I was born, I’ve always believed what I was told about Jesus. That was that. How dare I question things after all these years of belief and, furthermore, provision. So, on top of having confusing doubts, I was mentally punishing myself for harboring doubts WHILE starting work in full-time ministry for the first time. Needless to say, this was not a healthy way to live.
A few weeks into my internship, I shared these thoughts with a close friend. After listening quietly, she told me this: never hate, judge, or guilt yourself for your own thoughts. New ways of thinking can be terrifying enough without then piling more negative thoughts on top of that. Whether she knows it or not, she was giving me permission to love myself despite my doubts; to take them on and look them right in the face. After months of learning, through scripture, through people, and through prayer, most of my doubts have diminished or disappeared altogether. And those that still stick in my mind are given the attention they deserve, without self-hate or hidden guilt. And God is giving me newly formed opinions and ideas on spirituality and faith that are my own, and are more stable than they’ve ever been.
3.Put your faith into action. Serve before you preach.
It’s great to believe in your heart that God loves everyone and that everyone is equal. But to me, that means nothing unless you put that faith into action in works of social justice. Serve before you preach means love and give dignity to others before attempting to “save” them. That can mean an array of things, from building a house for a family on a mission trip to simply loving a new friend and being genuinely interested in them before just inviting them to a church event. Care about the people you serve. Look for their beauty, and work every day to see people as God sees them. Christians are often much more vocal about what they are against than what they are for. We can seem like a group that simply lobbies against things, screams Bible verses in political arenas and then goes back home to our families. But I believe that having faith means believing in the inherent importance of all human beings; that we were all put on Earth for a wonderful, individual reason. Therefore, as Christians, we must fight for social justice and promote fairness for all humans. Standing idly on the sidelines as injustice is dealt out daily in our world is just as bad as acting on injustice—if we believe that all people have worth in Jesus Christ, we must serve the rights of others in order to be more Christ-like.
4. Don’t compare your faith, spirituality, or religiousness with anybody else’s. Only compare yourself with who God created you to be.
I am constantly, every day, over-and-over guilty of comparing myself to others—in appearance, wit, finances, creativity, skills, intelligence, faith, prayer life, church attendance, you name it. There is always someone who seems to have it together more than I do; someone who looks better, seems more fun to be around, makes better art and just all around seems to be better than I. The picture below is currently the background on my computer, so I can remind myself every single day just that: comparison is the thief of joy. Those sorts of comparisons can creep into our faith life as well. We may compare ourselves with people who have been a Christian for years and feel like we know nothing compared to them—or, quite the opposite, we can compare ourselves to new Christians who just seem so on-fire and feel dull, stagnant, or quiet in comparison. We can listen to long, eloquent prayers and feel simple. We can talk to people who only listen to praise music and feel unspiritual or too “secular” for listening to pop hits. The list goes on and on but I am here to say that comparison does nothing but makes ourselves seem either superior or inferior to other Christians, and neither sentiment is true or healthy. God created us to live out our greatest potential, and knows all that we are capable of. That version of you—that beautiful, purposeful, creative, spiritual you—is the only comparison you should make. Strive every day to be the best version of you, and you will joyfully grow in your faith and as a creation of our Abba Father.
5. Above all, put on love.
Recently I had an experience where I came up against a group of people who felt they had statements of truth to share. However, their statements, while grounded in Scripture, came armed with harsh words, defensiveness, broad statements, and arrows of anger. The most Christ-like attribute that exists is love, so we have to pour that into everything we do. There is nothing more persuasive or powerful than truth spoken in love—that is what really changes lives. It will change yours the first time you hear it, and you can change others with the truth, in love. Seeing people the way God sees them, and therefore attempting to love people the way God loves them, will transform your relationships and your faith in God’s people. It will cause you to live a life of purpose and meaning, where you are constantly looking for ways to serve others. It will make you a light and example of God’s love and healing power. Love God, love others, love His creation and love yourself, and that love will compel you to a life brimming with meaning and purpose.
- Charity Hestead, intern
Last year, my first year of college, was rough. I struggled with loneliness and trying to find a place that could be my home away from home. My motto in high school was to “just survive” or “get it over with”. I had come to terms with the fact that I would always be a follower and was content with just blending in—after all, others had the gift of leadership and I believed I did not. I kept to myself but was ecstatic when others initiated conversations, because I loved talking with others and I felt visible when others talked to me.
Towards the end of my second quarter, as I was contemplating transferring to a different university, I decided to give the INN a chance. I was warmly welcomed—most importantly, by my current roommate, Sabby. She made my first experience at the INN one that sparked my interest in this community. Her boldness in love made me feel important and noticed.
This small, but significant, interaction caused me to wonder: what would happen if there were more people like Sabby in the world? This thought, combined with my desire to get plugged in to a community, caused me to sign up for a Servant Leadership position at the INN. Through this experience, God has led me and provided me with so much community and knowledge. He has shown me what commitment, dedication, love, relationship, accountability, and vulnerability looks like. He has blessed me with a community who cares about me and is furthering His kingdom, and He has shown me that I can make a difference and I am important. Not only that, but I got the chance to serve Him and His people in Bellingham, and that is something that I would not have had the opportunity to do had I not chosen to take a step and apply to become a Servant Leader. I have so much room to grow, and I have so much to offer, but it will be fruitless if I do it apart from Him.
Even though there will be many changes at the INN next year, I know God is calling me to be challenged and to challenge others. He wants to use me as a vessel of His love and encouragement, and He has great things in store for me. I know without a doubt that if I had not been a Servant Leader this past year, I would not be where I am spiritually today, and I would have continued to be content with being a follower. Being a Servant Leader has made me reflect so much on what it means to be a Christian, a friend, and a team member. I’m so blessed that I am able to be a part of this community and that I can give back to it the love that I received not only from a girl who made my first INN experience warm and comforting, but to a God who loves me infinitely more.
written by Megan Farren, a sophomore at Western & INN servant leader
“…with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18:19
As we talk about overcoming the odds & scaling our walls this quarter, we’ve already taken the first step: naming the walls we have in front of us. These are just a few examples of the walls facing students right now. You cannot take a task on until you realize and name your task, and the last few weeks at the INN have been a place for students to do just that. There is a strange power in calling out the obstacle ahead of you—once you write it down or tell another person, it becomes a real, more tangible thing that can be taken on with God and with the help of others.
In the next few weeks at the INN, we’ll be talking about the ways we can scale our walls: through friendship, crying out to God, worship, and listening + discerning, to name a few. Each of these ways come from the example of David, as he stumbles through trials and grows in his faith and relationship with the Lord. As we discuss ways that God helps us overcome the odds against us, continue to pray that God will reveal your walls to you and then reveal how you can scale them with Him.
I always figured the greatest challenge you face in the first two years of college is in making a career decision. You enter college, you take a few GURs, a few classes are supposed to perk your interest, and eventually you are forced to make a decision. Then you panic. You ask yourself the classic questions that middle school and high school teachers and counselors have been prepping you to ask for years: Will this career make me happy? Will I make enough to get by? Will I be good enough at it? Will I be positively impacting and shaping the community and the lives of those I interact with? When I entered college, I didn’t have those questions. I knew what I was going to do. Heck, I knew what I was going to do by the tail-end of elementary school. I was going to teach science to all ages. No doubts there.
The first two years of college, there were other challenges to distract me, a loss of a close friend to drug addiction, a family death, and broken trust in my romantic relationships. It wasn’t all dark, but there were definitely some tough moments. Through it all, career direction was the thing that actually seemed to be going somewhere. Then a lot of life changes occurred. I lived abroad. I got deeper into the science side of my major. Both of which were positive experiences. But then my year of practice teaching was excruciatingly difficult, incredibly stressful with little reward and it resulted in a sharp drop in self-efficacy. That spring I made it through to graduation, but I felt like I was a car crashing through a rail, still moving with all the momentum I had, but no longer intact. Broken glass and metal scraps, remnants of the academic knowledge I acquired, trailed listlessly behind me. Last summer I worked a quick two week course as a physics lecturer at Western. It was about all I had left in me. I finished a research project that had taken me two years to complete, and started my internship with the INN. I felt like I was gently recollecting old debris from the previous spring. The career driving questions I had asked myself re-appeared. Fear of the unknown had finally made its way into the unoccupied corners of my thoughts.
This is the obstacle that stands in my way. Its ominous presence rises high above me, and I question my strength to reach the ledge. Will teaching ever make me happy? Is it really what I want to do? Is it my purpose? Winter break has drawn my attention to the source of all this discomfort. I can start to recognize at last the things that bound me to the ground last spring. I look at my practice teaching. I think: what drained me, what confused me, what made me defeated the moment I stepped into the classroom? Why did I lose trust? Outwardly not a lot has been lost. My resume, symbol of my outward successes, is as strong as ever. But inwardly I am battling with much more.
It helps to know what I’m up against. Knowing how high the wall is makes it a little easier to see the top. I can fit myself easily into the mind of a top rope climber. The good news is I’m back on the ground, and the first step to get back on the wall is always the easiest. The bad news is I still have no idea how I’m going to get any higher. But I’m not alone. I’ve seen God act on my life before, reroute me and change the perspectives I cling to. If I am the climber, than He will belay me. He can see me to the top. So the next question: where shall I start?
The idea of forgiveness is beautiful. Over the holidays, I watched Les Mis with my mom and some of the most heart-wrenching, stunning scenes were those that told the story of a human being forgiving another: a priest and a thief, a man of great reputation and a prostitute, an abused prisoner and his jailer. To offer forgiveness to another is to set them free, to clear their debt, and to shed light into a dark place. We encourage others to forgive; we expect others to forgive us. We want countries and governments to forgive each other and for peace to settle in. We want God to forgive us. I love the idea of forgiveness.
Until someone wrongs me.
Then, I sink my claws in and prepare to hold on: to hold on to my sense of justice, my pain, my pride, my bitterness, that metallic taste that only anger has. I keep a record in my mind of just how wrong this person was, notecards covered in highlighted cursive depicting every detail of injustice: what they did, how they did it, and why (I think) they did it.
A year ago, this was my obstacle, the wall that loomed in front of me at all times: forgiveness. A wall that, though slightly transparent, would not let me travel around it—I had to go over. I could see through it, my future murky but visible through the wall. I needed to go over it and right through it in order to move on to a colorful, vibrant life. And I knew that, but the muddy black of anger can sometimes be even more enticing than the warmth of forgiveness.
Ever since I first moved to Bellingham, my home church has been in different stages of turmoil. My father has been the pastor there since before I was born, my mother is a worship leader, and it is where I grew up, met Jesus, and gathered most of my early role models. For most of my life, it has been THE church to me. The year I moved to Bellingham, and much of that next year, a spark of conflict started within the church and continued to spiral out of control. Without going into details, I will say that the more it unfolded, the more it hurt my family, in many ways. The tiniest match can turn into a forest fire when fueled, and the same is true of conflict. As the issue bled more and more into my family and home life, so did the anger bleed into my mind. As my own defense for my family grew, so did my distrust and anger at the church. When I went home to visit and sat in church, I simmered with fury; often rising up through my eyes in hot tears. I wanted everyone who caused the suffering to suffer as well. I held on to my anger, gripping it hard in my fist, for over a year.
Forgiveness, this wall, stood between my church and I, and even more importantly, between my faith and I, for longer than I’d like to admit. It seemed an obstacle too harsh to cross, something much too important to give up. It was mine. I wanted to go around it, to keep moving on in my journey without every going over it. I didn’t think I could. This wall stood, getting taller and taller as it blocked me from Jesus, the one who has to forgive me daily. Forgiveness, this lovely idea, now seemed impossible.
But my God, our God, has a way of coming into the picture and pushing us towards the impossible. He began to show me, through the example of my mother, how to take steps towards forgiveness and into a fuller, more vibrant life. He reminded me that pain and conflict may exist sometimes in a church but are not in His character, the face I should have been turning to. He showed me, through examples and through prayer, that letting go of injustice and scaling the wall of forgiveness is not only possible but necessary in order to live a life of love and compassion and peace. I haven’t completely climbed the wall yet—sometimes little shards of anger still flicker in my head—but I am far enough up that I can see the other side, and can dream of healing I didn’t think possible. God made my obstacles into learning, my anger into forgiveness, and he can do the same for you.
- Charity Hestead
Don’t get me wrong - no one likes chaos, discomfort or pain and if you do there’s a good chance that there is something wrong. At the far end of the other side of the spectrum though lies a special soft, fluffy and bland place called the comfort zone.
I’m also not talking about routine, rest or stability in life that shuns chasing what is new and shiny for what really matters for my call.
The comfort zone is a very different place from that.
The CZ is a magical place. I say magical because the normal laws of the universe get rewritten around what I feel like with the power of entitlement. It’s a land where you have your cake and eat it too (whatever that means). It’s a land where I get to focus on me, what I want, what makes me feel comfortable and happy while expecting that the world will come to me: for deep meaningful relationship, to feed me and make me grow, to tell me what my call is and give me vision for life. Even better, all threats and anxieties will go away. I just have to wait and protect me.
My only problem is that when I’ve gone all in on the CZ, I tend to wake up late with a headache unable to look a frosted circus animal cookie straight in the eye wondering what happened to my week. Then suddenly I hear Jack Bauer screaming at me, “You don’t have a choice!” and I see the seven seasons of 24 on my DVD player.
Actually, its often when I’ve gotten sick of the CZ and walked out that I come alive, deep relationships grow, scripture bounces off the page and I wake up to how Jesus has been at work all around me.
My second year at Western as a transfer student was a dark year. My failure was clearly before me academically, relationally and vocationally. I vacillated between apathy, paralysis and anger not feeling capable or called to anything. Worship didn’t seem to do anything. I kept waiting for someone or something to grab me, strengthen me, figure out for me what how I could get out of this hell I was in.
Finally, I got fed up and left the CZ.
I started with a soup kitchen run out of the same building that the INN used to be in. Hanging out with the homeless was not in my comfort zone but it soon started to bit by bit. I became more comfortable and confident with those who would have previously been a threat, able to both care and draw boundaries that allowed me to get to know people. Two of those were teenage kids - good kids even if they dressed fashion scary. They stopped coming and I didn’t see them again until I ran into them on the streets in San Francisco on an INN mission trip. They said something that has always stuck with me, “You know, not everyone has to give us money but I wish that they would at least look at us and acknowledge that we’re real people.”
CZ’s lead us to retreat and play defense for the promise of comfort but at a high cost to not just ourselves but others as well. The scariest thing about Jesus great Sermon in Matthew is how simple and straightforward it is in challenging our toxic comfort zones. The brutality of his challenge is often simply this - stop retreating into yourself, I’m here so get you head up and look around you and start playing offense. Look at those around you who make you angry, those you want to use, those you want to manipulate, those who you feel threatened by, at the Holy God who says you can call me Dad, heck even the flowers and birds! Don’t run away from those you feel will unfairly demand something from you - turn toward them and see that they are a couple of kids who want as little as the dignity of look.
From a black hole of failure to serving soup to the streets of San Francisco to a decisive summer at Firwood in a position I never would have imagined to seeing scripture come alive I discovered strength, peace, calling, life and the Living God who was just waiting for me to get off the couch.
I hope you’ll seriously think about going on a trip this year.
Regardless, my prayer is that we’ll be a community who fear the magical allure of comfort zones.
The implications are huge - not just for us but for the world we live in.
Peace :: Jon